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

Tara Maya tara at taramayastales.com
Fri Apr 24 17:24:55 UTC 2015

> On Apr 23, 2015, at 8:41 PM, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 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.
> Rafał

Top predators also require larger ecological space (measured by diversity as well as acreage), with some top predators dominating almost an entire continent by themselves. It may be that humans (or any equally sentient and social beings) require so much trophic space that only multiple planets will be enough to allow for multiple species to co-exist.

The other alternative (not necessarily mutually exclusive) would be an expansion of the biodiversity of the planet. In general, despite 5-7 mass extinction events, the biodiversity of Earth has risen dramatically since life began 5 billion years ago, and expansion has always been accompanied by more and more trophic levels and specialized niches.

Humans are the cause of the latest extinction event, but that is no reason we could not also be the cause of the latest explosion in biodiversity. 

Tara Maya
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