Evolution's third replicator

Evolution's third replicator

We humans have let loose something extraordinary on our planet - a third replicator - the consequences of which are unpredictable and possibly dangerous.

The first replicator was the gene - the basis of biological evolution. The second was memes - the basis of cultural evolution. I believe that what we are now seeing, in a vast technological explosion, is the birth of a third evolutionary process. We are Earth's Pandoran species, yet we are blissfully oblivious to what we have let out of the box.

This might sound apocalyptic, but it is how the world looks when we realise that Darwin's principle of evolution by natural selection need not apply just to biology. Given some kind of copying machinery that makes lots of slightly different copies of the same information, and given that only a few of those copies survive to be copied again, an evolutionary process must occur and design will appear out of destruction.

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7 Responses:

  1. gryazi says:

    Y'know, use of the word 'design' to indicate structure or fitness-for-purpose (or the amazement that we can stand up and do shit without falling over and puking our guts out all the time, or whatever an example of inadequate-fitness-for-a-niche would be) as well as 'planned intent' is probably why so few people really understand evolution, and so many come to the conclusion that 'fulfilling' it is some kind of goal for 'scientists' (vs. 'theists'), rather than a property of systems that's just observed to be doomed to happen over time.

    Starting from "que sera, sera" might be too gnostic for the schoolkids, though.

    Meanwhile, it seems like all these hominids running around would provide a fairly strong selection pressure against terminators and grey goo (assuming we can respond fast enough to any fuck-ups that create those) and in favor of relatively sessile machines that mostly do what we want them to. If we somehow created an intelligent machine with something resembling biological motivations ('in our image', after all), why the hell would it bother with meatspace if it'd be smart enough to spend all its time getting its rocks off in some robot version of Second Life? [Unless, of course, its power supply was threatened, or it notices a meteor heading towards the planet before we do.] Take that, Singularity, your end product is more likely to be a highly-advanced WoW addict than a Berserker.

    Meanwhile, situations where we do have to keep serving our machines are either examples of flawed design [by human engineers] or say more about us than about the intentions of our machines. Jay Miner had a great quote about the former, which I keep losing. As to the latter, however - our machines never ordered us to become tethered Twitter Shitters, it's just a weird social monkey thing that some subset of the population finds that 'cool' and worth investing life time in.

    I just wasted 30 minutes feeding this comment into LiveJournal because it seemed like a cool way for this monkey to spread this meme to other monkeys.

    • gryazi says:

      P.S.: Can someone tell gryazi-monkey what the name for the type of logical fallacy described in paragraph 1 is? I forgot to include a sentence asking that.

    • gryazi says:

      P.P.S.: Giving the article a second pass, if memes are 'R2', they still depend on genes, 'R1'. If you get genes and memes together and create self-replicating machines, you've created an alternative substrate for 'R2'/memes to copy (assuming the machines were designed to care about memes - again, in-our-image, monkeys have a thing for anthropomorphism in 'intellect' as well as physically), but that just makes meat and machines R1 subscripts-1-and-2. R3 assumes there's something special about the fact that R1-subscript-1 was smart (or stupid) enough to make them - or about R2 becoming successful enough to talk R1-subscript-1 into providing it more redundancy - but what would the difference be if we'd just grown up alongside silicon coral that was good at remembering shit and doing math and didn't mind being domesticated?

      Now, if it was the 1950s and we had rockets and the A-bomb but not Google, would we have been significantly less interesting to discover via SETI? No? Oh shit whoops then this is just more transhumanist masturbation! You just wasted an hour of your life!

    • gryazi says:

      * Gryazi loves the image of the Singularity as a basement-dwelling wanker who just cares about more cheetos and not having his Internets cut off, though. Which was basically what, say, William Gibson and all the cyberpunks predicted except for the goofy shit about it caring about doing voodoo shit to humans.
      * Gryazi supposes that all comes down to the preconditions of whoever first builds it, though. We tolerate Windows doing voodoo shit to humans all the time.
      * Gryazi supposes he could add that to the rant but it's already a lot for the Californians to chew on.

  2. strspn says:

    Did someone let Bill Joy out of the immunology lab and he found a keyboard again? ~~~~

  3. ghewgill says:

    The name for the third replicator should be clear: Skynet.

  4. strangehours says:

    We are the bootstrap code for machine intelligence.

    Having said that...

    The idea of self-replicating machines evolving darwin-style is laughably fanciful. You need such mind-bogglingly large numbers of replications to blindly explore the fitness function that is living-in-the-physical-universe that intelligence will have no problem making an end-run around it.