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Thursday, August 22, 2013

SOME BIG QUESTIONS ABOUT EVOLUTION


Q: Before I go to sleep. Explain to me your last post (if you want). I just read up on Ray kurzweil… didn´t know he existed.

A: OK… To the Singularians, and the Transhumanists, Kurzweil is Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, Moses, etc. Kurzweil speaks and writes of the acceleration of the evolution of technology and posits a time, not long from now, when technology evolves at an almost infinite rate…

That moment of infinite acceleration of technological evolution, "the singularity" as he calls it, if taken literally, would herald the beginning of an age where everything is possible and almost instantly available. In ancient religion and philosophy, this "get anything you want at the instant you want it", was called omnipotence. Omnipotence. Completely powerful. Kurzweil reaches this understandably attractive conclusion by projecting forward the current technological acceleration rate (as measured primarily by Moores Law). Moores Law is attributed to Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel corporation who noticed early on that the semiconductor industry was able to put 4 times as many logic gates on a CPU for half the price every 17 months, resulting in the exponential growth of computing power that has fueled the tech and information and communication market expansion that has so defined the last 30 years of the global economy.

Q: Are you done with the explanation? So this type of evolution is what you meant?

A: But Moores Law is a simple result of the square law of the area of a two dimensional surface… divide a rectangle in half on both of its axis and you have 4 times as many internal units. A linear growth in one attribute causes an exponential growth in the result. This only works with computer chips because electrons are really really small and can be caused to run down smaller and smaller wires without changing the result of the logic on a circuit. Long before Moore noticed the trend line, Richard Feynman wrote a great paper called "There's Room At The Bottom" in which he spoke to the fact that information only cares about on and off, yes and no, 1 and 0, and that matter at the atomic and subatomic scale could really hold a lot of the stuff.

The problem is that eventually, after processing information, processing abstractions, you have to make that information do something. Even more than that, as you work up through the easy calculations, you eventually are stuck with computational problems that would stretch the limits of the whole universe even should all of the universe be made into one big computer. And of course, the universe is already a computer, and it is already doing that calculation, that mother of all calculations.

A big deal that has nothing to do with Ray Kurzweil? You must not be a singularian.

Q: You have time to write more science or should I go to sleep??

A: The difference is that Kurzweil is so motivated by his own human centered vision of the future that he forgets that there is but on future of the universe and the only way to effect it is to predict a better path from here to there. The universe doesn't become us. We must become the future or other things will and we will be as food to their efforts.

Who's vision will always have the larger audience? Kurzweil, of course. He feeds our wants and our fears. I feed an abstraction larger than any self or vantage.

My explanation demands we abandon our selves… not likely to happen.

Q: When you say that we must become the future, in what way would that be? Abandon how?

A: Can you have a goal that doesn't directly benefit you? Very few people can.

Q: I thought about this before my beauty sleep and the answer is No. Everything I do benefits me in a certain way. Even helping others with necessity is an advantage to me, emotionally, does that count?

A: What we've got to do and may not be genetically equipped to do, is begin to extend the boundaries of "self" outward to encompass a larger and larger chunk of reality.

Q: And that genetic requirement is some kind of intelligence? And… What is your answer to people that say: "The second law only works in a closed system. We have solar inputs therefor it is not a closed system and order can and has emerged aka life."

A: In a dissipative universe, a universe where EVERY change in ANY system ALWAYS results in the greatest possible dissipation, evolutionary FITNESS is always the configuration that causes the greatest dissipation of the universe. Biology is better at the dissipation game than is most simple chemistry. So biology out-competes chemistry in the race to get the universe to heat death the fastest. Biology makes for a steeper slope from hear to heat death… a shorter path. That is the problem evolution computes.

And notice that these progressively better dissipation schemes… aren't exclusive… but additive and hierarchical. Biology doesn't replace chemistry, it uses it, builds with it, accelerates it.

Q: Knowing all this, what have you done or changed in your life in order to be true to your ideas and believes about the universe? I know your perspective of religion is not the same as your family´s, what else did you give up or drastically changed?

A: That question doesn't really apply to me as I've been working on figuring all of this out since I was 9. I think that figuring out how a universe works is plenty for one person to do in a life time. I'm writing a book describing it all. I'm creating Sam extra-biological system to extend eviction forward at a higher pace than biology allows. I'm passing the baton forward in better shape than when it was handed me. I'm doing what the universe does.

I'll tell you how maximum dissipation is locally competitive… the nuts and bolts of evolutionary fitness. Hint: it isn't survival of the fittest the way most people imagine it.

OK, by having a structure that out-disipates other nearby structures, that causes more energy and materials to be cycled through or because of your structure, you create an environment of such flux, such rapid change, that other structures must either be more dissipative or they will be consumed by you. This is the competitive advantage that dissipation affords. Survival advantage goes to the structures that can cause the greatest energy and material flux, and can do so while maintaining more structural integrity as they do so. And because all structures eventually compete in the dissipation game, continued survival is always dependent on a structure's ability to get better and better at dissipation and to get better and better, faster and faster.

The last component of a comprehensive domain-independent theory of evolution, the one that evaded Darwin, and seems to evade most evolution theorists, is the apparent logical conflict between local competitive advantage and the long-term wide-scope trends in evolution.

Locally, optimization always wins – always out-competes. Darwin's island finches do gain survival advantage by becoming specialists, by matching morphologies to local resource pressures. BUT (or rather, AND), optimization makes one vulnerable to change, the more your beak becomes perfectly matched to one type of nut, the least likely you will survive changes in food availability. In the short term, optimization always wins, always makes an entity more successful, more plentiful, more representative in the population and as a factor in the local environmental dynamics. But in the long run, such trends towards optimization always result in extinction dead ends. Optimization is a reductive process. What drives evolution forward, towards the maximization of dissipation on the largest scales (not local), are the freaks on the outskirts of a population, are the generalists, are the entities who struggle in the local, but are better prepared always to accept and survive into a changing environment (the environment always changes). In evolutionary terms, general-ism is equivalent to knowledge. The more an entity can build an internal representation of the salient aspects of their environment, and the more that representation or map can be refined and made inclusive of and describe all of reality, the greater will be the probability that entity will be able to predict the future. Prediction allows the advantage of efficiency, it allows an entity to ignore all aspects not causal and to put their energies only towards that which is most likely to happen. In the short term, in the local, prediction advantage goes to maps that assume environmental stasis, that imagine the world as never changing. In the long run, in the largest most universal scope, prediction advantage goes to maps that more accurately describe the shape and direction of change.

The "Darwinian Map" describes the sort of local advantage that results in the rich and endlessly varied branching of evolution's extinction history. But the essence of capital "E" Evolution isn't best described by the dominance of evolution's extinction branching, but by the freaks on the sidelines that struggle to compete in the present, in the local, with the optimizers, by being generalists, by optimizing to the largest trend, by being the computation at all moments, of the shortest path from all here and nows to the one there and then.

Think of the generalists as entities who can see or want to see beyond the local horizon. The localists, the optimizers, predict too of course. A Galapagos finch's beak predicts the abundance of certain types of nuts and seeds and insects. But that prediction is eventually false as the environment changes. 

And notice the way that this model explains and defines intelligence.Edit

So, if you can internalize my theory, you are one of a very few who have ever understood THE process in this or any possible universe. This process is the only domain independent process, and as such is the foundational causal behavior in any system. Be proud.

We are sooooooo lucky to be alive at this exact moment in evolution… the dividing line between blind evolution and self aware evolution.

Q: How does this apply to us as humans and our current lifestyle? You say we are not genetically equipped in order to achieve that kind of knowledge??

A: There are twenty or thirty people on earth who can run close to 28 miles per hour. So if our future required we all run that fast…

However, knowledge changes action. A more accurate map of reality should change behavior in actionable ways. The problem is that evolution has selected against certain types of thinking, and for other types of thinking, and I am afraid that this theory falls very much in the center of the region of thoughts our brains are structured specifically to avoid.

And remember, all we have to do is extend the process… not our selves.

Just remember that there are lots of ways to be a "freak". But only one type of freak is the type that try's to find the shortest path to the most general eventuality. And the only way to do this is to get better and better and knowing what matters.

Q: From what you know about me, do you think I'm a long way of knowing what matters?

A: You are one of the only people I know who bothers to ask. You are probably on the way to being the right type of freak (outlier).




Post Script:

I forgot to talk to the boundaries of self as related to questions about practical actions one might take as pertains dissipative evolution theory.

Imagine yourself as a Galapagos Finch. You maximize your personal advantage by having a beak that matches the demands of the local food resources. In the process, it is also most efficient to dump any attributes that don't match local resources exploitation needs. Maybe you don't need a big brain if all you need to do is find the seeds that match your beak. You will as a result, become fabulously wealthy in finch land. Until, that is, the environment evolves out from underneath you and big brained finches do better in the chaos transition that ensues. Ultimately, in fact, the biggest advantage doesn't go to one type of finch or another, but to some genetic path that selects towards the capacity to understand and process a map of the world, the universe they are a part of. The path from finch-ed-ness, to big-brain-ed-ness isn't exactly obvious. Somehow, a succession of generations of finch adaptations must survive, and must survive in the presence and competitive pressure from, the beak-optimizer finches as they live it up in relative luxury.

Even should big-brain-ed-ness provide the shortest path from finch-ness to the most deceptively profound future, no finch in his or her right finch-mind would willingly choose to scrape by on the sidelines of competitive survival. Not at least if big-brain-ed-ness prove to be of little help in competition with the better-beak-ers. Barely surviving on the sidelines, isn't exactly the best self-motivation incentive. So how does one explain long range evolutionary advantages in reference to here and now survival advantage? And, how does one, once aware of the grand evolutionary arch, choose a path or paths that provide long range solutions at the expense of local suffering?

The answer to the first question is that the larger arch of evolution pays little attention to local success schemes and is always more the result of the schemes and structures that maximize dissipation in the whole of the future. So long as survival passes unbroken across the necessary chain of generations, a scheme can influence the future even if it is horribly unsuccessful in any of its iterative incarnations.

One way to achieve success that is in agreement with dissipative evolution theory, is to expand the definition of self. If one thinks of their skin as the boundary of what is and isn't the self, it is hard to be motivated by the larger goals that may for example involve their own demise or the demise of their culture or species. But if one instead thinks of self as including the whole of the universe, or at least, that portion of the universe that will successfully influence a path towards the maximization of entropy, than even plans and changes that marginalize their own corporal self can be imagined wildly successful.

I've previously found better words to describe this thought. This will have to do for now.

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