Re: virus: uptopias vs. evolutionary algorithms (was: any comments)

From: Walter Watts (
Date: Tue Jun 18 2002 - 15:53:01 MDT

jake IS awake!!!!! wrote:

> This seems a pretty frequent ideological goal of many technophilic
> fantasies, to "escape" from Darwinian evolution, to no longer have a
> "blind watchmaker" but human/transhuman desires and intentions to do
> the work of evolution. While it may prove difficult to show why this
> cannot really happen when we look at any one area, like alleviating
> physical suffering, and so forth (I mean after all they look like
> simple bioengineering problems, right?), I think there exists some
> deep, though understandable, misunderstandings about the nature of
> evolution in these utopic dreams. This time the misunderstanding
> arises not from creationist ideological denial of reality, but from
> the misunderstanding of our individual partial role that we play in an
> otherwise impersonal algorithmic process that encompasses our more
> partial and self-seeming "star" role that we as individuals play in
> that process.
> It comes down to this: The things that humans do for individual
> vanity, or even for the "greater good", we NEVER figure accurately
> (and frequently not even approximately) the unintended consequences of
> what we do, and hence considerations of fitness may frequently run
> obliviously or even counter to what an individual thinks of as
> "fitness" from their own perspective. For example, we may increase
> the intelligence of individuals, only to discover that they no longer
> have any desire to reproduce. We may alleviate physical pain and
> suffering to such a degree that people become apathetic to the plight
> of those who still have no relief, after all do not at least some
> people enter the medical profession inspired at least in part if not
> in whole by some incident(s) of suffering within their own childhood
> family/environment?
> In any case this does not stand as a point of defeatism in these kinds
> of issues, it merely points out that while may and perhaps should
> improve our condition and increase our options, we should not expect
> this to exempt us from essentially blind evolutionary forces. In the
> case of pain, especially since we all have fairly visceral experience
> of this phenomena, evolution thrives on stress of this very sort.
> Eliminate this, and evolution will tend to award those "competitors"
> that reintroduce this or another stressor into the system. Perhaps in
> its place our great grandchildren will experience some great anxieties
> that we could never understand in our current cognitive capacities.
> In any case, when we hear these sorts of technophilic gushings about
> eliminating natural selection, I think we should remain more than just
> mildly skeptical. For me it sort of falls in the same sort of
> category as technologically achieving time-travel (backwards and
> forwards). We find it a little more seductive than that, however,
> because in particular instances, like eliminating all physical pain,
> we have already made some significant strides and it therefore makes
> the issue of why not complete elimination? a particularly more
> pressing one. In any case, despite any optimism on particular issues,
> evolution - and here I mean the blind variety - operates on a more
> impersonal and more holistic level.
> -Jake


Walter Watts Tulsa Network Solutions, Inc.

"No one gets to see the Wizard! Not nobody! Not no how!"

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