Re: Evolved Preferences

Peter C. McCluskey (
Sun, 27 Apr 1997 09:36:21 -0700 (Robin Hanson) writes:
>As we become better at exchanging information in ways other than via
>sexual reproduction, it seems the longer time-horizon of asexual
>reproduction should win out. This suggests a future of very patient
>risk-averse asexual Bayesians, in contrast to the impatient optimistic
>risk-taking young males who dominate science fiction.

>The Low Golden Willow writes:
>>So the big difference comes from sexuality, mortality, or both?
>The diff is sexuality, which makes each child only half you, so you
>have only half the interest in promoting its welfare over your own.
>Evolution has no problems with your dying in order to make room for
>another entity with your essential (i.e., selected-for)

Do parents usually have more interest in the welfare of asexually
produced children than in sexually produced children? There are
obvious cases in which the answer is yes (DNA-controlled organisms
or software that normally reproduces by making exact copies), but it
isn't obvious that those cases will predominate in the future, or
that asexual reproduction will predominate.
Asexual reproduction has always been possible for DNA. DNA has evolved
the more expensive sexual reproduction because it produces better
adaptation. I haven't seen any reason to think that a permanent change
to this principle is about to happen (although short term fluctuations
in the ratio of asexual to sexual reproduction are likely as new reproduction
mechanisms are tried).
Even if a large surge in direct copying of life happens, I'm uncertain
whether that means the "parent" has more interest in the "child"'s welfare
than with asexual reproduction. If I've already made 1000 direct copies
of myself but only one sexually produced child, will copy #1001 really
be more valuable than unique child #2? Under natural selection as it has
worked for biological organisms, the answer would clearly be yes if we
ignore the adaptive benefits I mentioned in the prior paragraph. But I
suspect that depends on all organisms having roughly equal impact on the
system. I can imagine a trillion copies of myself dominating any analysis
that measures an "average" individual, but being irrelevant to the behavior
of society because most copies are kept isolated as part of experiments
I'm running. (Or is it only the aggregate value of the offspring rather
than the marginal value of the next offspring that matters for the effects
you mention?)

[Apologies for the slowness of my responses; I've been working too hard].

Peter McCluskey |                        | "Don't blame me. I voted | | for Kodos." - Homer Simpson |     |