Re: 100% Natural

Eugene Leitl (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 16:13:34 +0200 (MET DST)

On Tue, 17 Sep 1996, Sarah Marr wrote:

> At 01:32 16/09/96 -0700, Chris Hind wrote:
> > [...]
> This is an interesting, and common, angle on nature: anthropomorphization
> coupled with linguistic personification. Within a Darwinian framework I find
> it hard to consider the workings of nature as a gestalt entity; rather, it
> seems to be a series of interacting events in which there is no prior
> assessment of effect, no plan. So 'nature' doesn't look at a problem in any
> direction at all.

One common view of Darwinian evolution is population drift on a
multidimensional fitness landscape, a parallel (multiple individua)
energy minimization/search by hopping (since Darwin != Lamarck) along the
fitness gradients.

The fitness is pretty noisy due to random factors (face it, there
is just dumb luck & cruel chance at times), and other individua/species
present modulate it heavily, which makes the landscape highly dynamic.

Nevertheless, the result is surprisingly modular and effective, in a
certain sense one can speak of a gestalt, of the tinkering watchmaker.
Even though there is no "meaning" in meaning, the Darwinian evolution
leaves a stamp of purposeful design on its products. Since its signature
resembles those imprinted by personal, human shapers no wonder there is a
strong sense of kinship if the latter happen to evaluate the works of the
non-personal designer.

Anthromorphism can at times be constructive, just think of the detailed
off-shelf self models we use. While speaking of tools, why not utilizing

> The 'nature' of geophysical activity is merely a pseudo-chaotic amalgam of
> atmospheric and tectonic interactions. The 'nature' of biological

...not to forget the adaptation to the other denizens of the habitat.

> development is merely a day-to-day battle between individual organisms, and
> between organisms and their environment.
> If 'nature' could be personified, since 'she' does not care about effect,

Careful, here. Evaluate the result, not the designer. If 'caring' is
energy minimization, then yes, the process 'cares'. Don't see too much
sense in assigning emotions to processes, even for the sake of the model.

> 'her' approach to engineering and it's environmental effects seems
> remarkable similar to that of humankind in many ways: do something and see
> what happens, it'll sort itself out in to a balance point after a while.

Tracking most human designs will reveal an interesting thing: there is a
Darwin design evolution all right, and no mistake. It's an old view, some
model cases are in the literature.

Of course we humans have something evolution lacks: we can afford design
discontinuities, directly going for a distant maximum (using our
assumption about the shape of the function) while skipping interim steps,
which might be even nonviable. But, remember, we ourselves are products
of the evolution! There is no accounting for what evolution can do, for
to wit: it's a metamethod.


> Sarah
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Sarah Kathryn Marr
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

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