Bow Tie Architecture

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= governance and control structure


John Robb:

"If we look at this new global system from a distance, its architecture is something called a Bow-Tie (aka "Platform"). This is a form of universal control system architecture that underlies complex systems from the Internet to cell metabolism." [1]


John Robb:

"The Bow-Tie architecture has the following features:

  • Nearly unlimited scalability. The ability to accept a wide variety of inputs (the left bow) and convert them into a small set of universal building blocks (the knot). This, in combination with protocols for interconnection, enable a plug-and-play approach to building a wide variety of outputs (the right bow).
  • Robust and evolvable at the same time. As environments change in the short term, new combinations can be made from the basic building blocks and protocols to meet new demands. Additionally, since the system is shared, any evolutionary innovation quickly propagates across the entire system.
  • Fragility. The entire system is vulnerable to changes, perturbations, and hijacking within the core set of building blocks and protocols."


More Information

  1. Illustration graphic at
  2. excellent article, "Bow ties, metabolism, and disease" by Caltech's Marie Csete and John Doyle, at