Re: Why are we allowed to age?

I William Wiser (wwiser@best.com)
Thu, 12 Jun 1997 11:37:32 -0700


Michael Tilford wrote:
>It would also seem to me that the mechanism of evolution -
>mutation->adaption->normalization could be short-circuited by extreme
>longevity or immortality. Swift turnover and ability to issue offspring
>that may be more suited to a changing condition are probably evolutionary
>positives....

Let me see if I can get this right. Start with a self replicating organism,
the faster it replicates, the more accurately it replicates and the longer
it is not destroyed the more copies of it there will be around at any given
time. The organism may mutate or be copied with differences. The organism
may compete with it's copies and/or mutated copies for resources. At no
time are the number of copies increased by removing the original and no
unmutated copy is any more productive than the original but the original
becomes a progressively smaller part of the number of organisms.

Some types of mutated organisms survive, or replicate more often than
others. They become more plentiful. These organisms can cooperate, gang-up
or practice many other behaviors and the behaviors that most contribute
to fast replication, accurate replication and individual survival will be
the ones that are present in greatest numbers.

These organisms can be classified into those that go for lots of
copies and those that go for a few copies with more resources allotted
to each. It all gets more complicated when we introduce sexual
reproduction, niches, and organisms that build bodies around themselves
consisting of other organisms. None of this gets away from the concept
that what last the longest and makes the greatest number of faithful
copies of itself is that which will be most common.

Of course as others have mentioned there are destructive genes that
survive only because they happen to be near beneficial genes. And
there are genes that help an organism survive and reproduce when
young, only to cause it trouble latter. And yes a more slowly
reproducing older organism can get in the way of it's more productive
offspring. Once an organism can no longer reproduce itís contributes
to genetic survival by itís own existence and by assisting itís offspring.
Evolution increases individual survival and reproduction whenever
it is economical to do so but reproduction is often the easier thing to
enhance.

Another interesting strategy involves organisms that do not replicate
themselves but rather make mutated versions of themselves. Organisms
that create other mutated organisms have a chance to create something
which is more likely to become common than their creator. At this
point a competition can develop between different lines of mutating
processes with some processes becoming more common than others.

This introduces a concept that is new to me. If I view evolution as a
competition between systems of chemical reactions to produce as many
other chemical reactions as possible I gain a different perspective.
Evolution becomes not a competition for survival but instead a
competition for effect with survival and replication being
part of the equation but not as important as keeping something going.
This is very in line with my own goals with the difference being that
I place a higher premium on being around to see what happens.

Human genes look like the best things so far at producing long
life with rapid adaptive change. Clearly intelligence is a win but
the human species may be a bit to chaotic and start the whole process
over or it may create a more efficent species to replace it. Biology
(like my post) often takes 7 right turns to go left.

I'll go back to personifying genes now. What genes want is to create
the most capable and durable things they can. To do this of course
they want intelligent beings capable of complex behavior. They want
beings that eventually reach a point where starting over is unlikely
to yield anything better and instead evolve by making gradual
modifications to themselves.

They want a universe full of capable beings that choose cooperation
over violent competition because they are more likely to survive
that way and want to avoid starting over with new beings when
the odds of getting something better are remote. The genes
also feel it is important to get as much life energy out of the
slowly cooling universe as possible by capturing highly energetic
molecules and harnessing them to do useful work on relatively cold
and lifeless matter.

The genes are really quite reasonable and want nothing more than to
see us thrive. Really their main flaw is that they are a little
dense and they are from Missouri. Once we show them that we are
what they have been working for all these many millions of years,
by eliminating aging, and not engaging in destructive competition
with other highly capable life forms when a constructive alternative
is available, I am sure they will be thrilled and trouble us only a
little.

Immortality does not short circuit evolution but rather completes
one phase of it. Immortality or at least extreme longevity is one
of the things evolution tends to produce (gray goo is another
possibility but I am an optimist).

Anyway, this topic is starting to remind me of some lectures on
neural nets, how to avoid getting stuck in sub optimal minimums
by introducing chaos, and the ways I might enhance the process
by cycling the level of chaos and consolidation in a goal directed
way, so Iíll go try to find something more useful to do.