Daniels, B. C.,Krakauer, D. C.,Flack, J. C.

Many adaptive systems sit near a tipping or critical point. For systems near a critical point small changes to component behaviour can induce large-scale changes in aggregate structure and function. Criticality can be adaptive when the environment is changing, but entails reduced robustness through sensitivity. This tradeoff can be resolved when criticality can be tuned. We address the control of finite measures of criticality using data on fight sizes from an animal society model system (Macaca nemestrina, n = 48). We find that a heterogeneous, socially organized system, like homogeneous, spatial systems (flocks and schools), sits near a critical point; the contributions individuals make to collective phenomena can be quantified; there is heterogeneity in these contributions; and distance from the critical point (DFC) can be controlled through biologically plausible mechanisms exploiting heterogeneity. We propose two alternative hypotheses for why a system decreases the distance from the critical point.