[ExI] Evolution

Ben ben at zaiboc.net
Thu May 21 17:17:49 UTC 2020

On 21/05/2020 17:22, Re Rose wrote:
> Ben, I should have clarified. I didn't mean evolution was consciously 
> creative, which the word "brilliant" evokes. I meant the power of it 
> is often surprising, and the solutions it arrives at (I'm thinking of 
> the Robby the Robot cleaning algorithm - a program which creates a 
> search path for a autonomous robot in a maze, picking up trash in 
> cubicles on the path. Evolutionary algorithms find optimal pathways 
> far faster than human programmers do for the robot) are more efficient 
> than the ones directed human programmers some up with.
> And, I disagree that deliberate design works better than evolution for 
> all tasks. In fact I'd even go so far as to vehemently disagree with 
> that statement. Humans meddle and break things, they overdesign, they 
> "paper-over" or build around errors, they make things that emit toxins 
> and then ignore the toxins, they cannot foresee 
> unforeseen consequences, the things they make wear out and become 
> obsolete. Not always good. The other part of that discussion would be 
> the human engineering of things like machines, and mathematics, and 
> cities, and the like, but even then I think evolution finds the best 
> solution once the process is started. We call that evolution 
> "capitalisim" and/or "free market".
> It's amazing, though, what "good enough" can do - look at the 
> effectiveness and anti-fragility of all the interacting biochemical 
> pathways which make up metabolic systems across species. Or the 
> metabolic design of extremophiles. Or the effectiveness of the simple 
> honeybee brain. I could keep naming biological miracles but you could 
> also just go outside and look at the delicate structure and variety of 
> color and fragrence (for communication!) of your local flowers, or 
> check out any bird, lizard or ant, or even microbes - and try to 
> design one from scratch. Evolution did all that. I still think it's, 
> well, if not truly brilliant, then hugely awesome in the true sense of 
> the word.

You really don't think that deliberate design, given 3 billion years, 
couldn't come up with much better solutions than evolution has in the 
same time?

I'm not saying that we /currently /do design things better than 
evolution has, of course not. I'm saying that evolution, even though it 
does come up with some marvellous things, also comes up with some 
howlers, that looked at from the perspective of an intelligent agent, 
are as dumb as a very dumb thing indeed, and there's no doubt we could 
improve on them, and very probably will one day.

In  fact, I think that one day, we or our descendants will redesign 
biology in depth, right from the DNA upwards (almost certainly ditching 
DNA itself in the process), and the result will be organisms such as 
have never been seen before, with properties and abilities that we would 
simple gape in wonder at. You think evolution has produced some wonders? 
You ain't seen nothing yet.

Ben Zaiboc

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