[ExI] Narrow ecological niches Re: Portia Spider hunting Spiders on 600K neurons - Was: Bees are clever!

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Fri Apr 24 03:41:15 UTC 2015

On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 8:26 PM, Robin D Hanson <rhanson at gmu.edu> wrote:

>  On Apr 23, 2015, at 7:58 PM, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>   ### There is a general observation in ecology that the presence of two
> non-interbreeding populations in the same ecological niche is an unstable
> situation, always leading to the extinction of one of the populations.
>  I have the impression that general intelligence in a fitness-maximizing
> self-replicator creates its own niche and all such replicators inhabit it.
> That is to say, any group of interbreeding fitness-maximizing replicators
> with general intelligence is a direct competitor of all other such groups
> that are reproductively separate from it.
>  But why is there only one niche in this case? The biological world seems
> to have a vast number of niches, and modern economies also seem to have a
> great many niches. Why is this illusory?

### As noted, non-intelligent species are specialized, so multiple niches
exist. The notion of a niche in human economies is a bit different from the
ecological niche - human specializations are less dependent on genetic
differences. An individual orb-weaving spider might only eat flying
insects, or die (under selective pressure its species can evolve to feed on
something else but his is a different story). A individual lawyer could
have been a doctor or a plumber but for the relative demand and supply of
various types of labor. This is not to deny that genetically determined
individual human skills have an impact on chosen occupations, especially on
fringes of the distribution that may require unusual levels of intelligence
or other characteristics - however, humans overall tend be able to better
substitute for each other, thanks to general intelligence, than
non-intelligent replicators.

The ability to substitute into multiple economic niches means that more fit
humans can overtake a population, sometimes very quickly. Human genomes
show evidence of multiple selective sweeps where small initial seed
populations massively increase in numbers and eliminate competing groups,
sometimes with little interbreeding. Introducing a non-human
fitness-maximizing intelligent species could result in the same type of
population sweep.

Humans under current ecological conditions are less fitness-maximizing than
under natural conditions of Malthusian equilibrium - which may be one of
the reasons why large-scale conflict has largely abated for now.

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