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

Robin D Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Fri Apr 24 13:42:09 UTC 2015

On Apr 23, 2015, at 11:41 PM, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com<mailto: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. ... 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 first species to pioneer a new big innovation may quickly fill a large environment, and it may seem to be “general” with respect to that new environment. But with time its descendants may fragment into many species as different ones specialize in different parts of the niche.  Humans have pioneered some big innovations, and no other known animal comes close for now, but there’s no reason that the descendants of humans can’t fragment into many versions that specialize in different areas. If humans retained their methods of reproduction for a long time, that is probably would would happen. The main reason for doubt is big upcoming changes in how mind and body designs are encoded and changed.

Robin Hanson  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Res. Assoc., Future of Humanity Inst., Oxford Univ.
Assoc. Professor, George Mason University
Chief Scientist, Consensus Point
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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