[ExI] Are Limited Lifespans An Evolutionary Adaptation?

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu Jun 18 14:24:36 UTC 2015

I'm not convinced, I see far too much random sloppiness (a sign of lack of evolutionary pressure) underlying ageing rather than timer processes (where evolution would optimize a particular lifespan).

Still, given the evolutionary heuristic (http://www.nickbostrom.com/evolution.pdf), if their theory was true then we should be really happy as transhumanists! Because then we would be in a fairly clear-cut case of evolution having different goals than us, and enhancements of ageing would be less likely to have nasty side effects. If ageing is just the result of evolution not caring, then there may also not be any inherently bad side effects of fixing it, but we have far less reason to think there are simple underlying causes we can fix.

So I doubt their theory, but I would be happy to be disproven. 

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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Are Limited Lifespans An Evolutionary Adaptation?
George Dvorsky   6/12/15


By running variations of their model hundreds of thousands of times, a
research team led by Yaneer Bar-Yam from the New England Complex
Systems Institute (NECSI), in collaboration with the Harvard Wyss
Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, observed that
evolution favors shorter lifespans in environments where resources are
scarce and when pressures to procreate are particularly intense. The
simulations appeared to show that lifespans of animals — humans
included — are genetically conditioned, and not the result of gradual
wear-and-tear. It’s a surprising result, one that gives added credence
to the burgeoning paradigm known as “programmed aging.”

Without genetically programmed aging, he argues, animals wouldn’t be
able to leave sufficient resources for their offspring. And this holds
true for all animals, whether they be rabbits, dolphins, or humans.

Fascinatingly, group selection — the idea that natural selection acts
at the group level — was never a consideration in the model. Yet the
simulations consistently showed that a built-in life expectancy
emerged among the simulated organisms to preserve the integrity of
their species over time. This is surprising because a pro-group result
was produced via an individualized selectional process.

“Beyond a certain point of living longer, you over-exploit local
resources and leave reduced resources for your offspring that inhabit
the same area,” Bar-Yam said. “And because of that, it turns out that
it’s better to have a specific lifespan than a lifespan of arbitrary
length. So, when it comes to the evolution of lifespans, the longest
possible lifespans are not selected for.”

This new theory is still controversial and the article continues to
discuss the alternatives.
Aubrey de Grey also comments.

But I like it. Resource driven ageing via evolution just seems 'right'.


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