Re: predictions if wave passed here

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Wed Oct 18 2000 - 09:08:08 MDT

Eugene Leitl wrote:
> > My feeling is that once the wave has passed you by, evolution is through
> > with you. All the factors that got you here are irrelevant now.
>No, the evolution is still pretty much active. Only the fitness
>function has changed: you don't get benefit for running anymore. Now
>the question is whether you now 1) metamorphize into sedentary
>phenotype (I agree with you that there there is not much need for a
>pioneer to carry such genotype) 2) adapt rapidly to changed conditions
>3) failing that, get overwhelmed by slower but fitter successor wave
>organisms (that wave did come from somewhere, after all).
>... After the wave front specialists have passed, the medium
>is left colonized. Now you will to start adapting to sedentary
>conditions, evolve into grass, sheep, wolves, people with guns and
>whatever evolution nonlinearities will come up with. ...
>Expecting sterile substrate (or even sterile organisms) in wave's wake
>is utterly unreasonable. Life just doesn't do such things.

David Blenkinsop <> wrote:
>Myself, now that I better understand what Robin Hanson is saying here, I
>find that I think the whole Cosmic Commons thing is utter nonsense!
>In effect, the whole idea is at odds with other comments that Robin has
>made in the past, about the likely inevitability of life's successfully
>colonizing all sorts of niches? So, maybe you've got some folks running
>lemminglike for the frontier, this is no argument for a total lack of
>"stay at home" settlers. Maybe this amounts to some sort of strange
>assumption that selection could *elimate* variation?

The intuition that all niches eventually get filled is appealing, and my
guess is that it is probably true eventually. But when is eventually?
The point of doing analysis is to make clearer the connections between
assumptions and conclusions. My analysis makes certain assumptions and
gets certain conclusions. When such conclusions are surprising one needs
to re-examine both one's intuitions and assumptions.

My analysis suggests, as per Eugene's taxonomy above, to get the universe
colonized, it is not enough to just have enough variation among stars in
tendencies to go out and explore. Once selection works on that variation
to produce lots of colonization, you also need enough variation in those
colonists to then produce ones who choose to stop moving and settle down.

My guess would be that the main variation of this sort would come from
slower waves moving out from the same central source of variation, instead
of changes in the "genome" of leading edge colonists. To estimate how
much slower the next wave would be, I need better estimates of the
functional forms for my model.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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