Writing the Future: Progress and Evolution

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Such stories have strong ideative links with extravagant Alternate-History stories which contemplate alternative patterns of earthly evolution, notably Guy Dent 's Emperor of the If , Harry Harrison 's West of Eden and its sequels — in which primitive men must compete with intelligent descendants of the Dinosaurs — and Stephen R Boyett 's The Architect of Sleep , in which it is raccoons rather than apes that have given rise to sentient descendants. Accounts of Alien evolution are separately considered in the section on Life on Other Worlds , but mention must be made here of the frequent recruitment of the ideas of convergent evolution and parallel evolution to excuse the dramatically convenient deployment of humanoid aliens.

Writers conscientious enough to construct a jargon of apology for such a situation often argue that the logic of natural selection permits intelligence to arise only in upright bipeds with binocular vision and clever hands, and that, had such bipeds not evolved from lemurs, they might instead have evolved from catlike or even lizardlike ancestors. There are, however, relatively few stories which actually turn on hypotheses of this kind; examples include Philip Latham 's "Simpson" March Cosmos , one of several stories about humanlike aliens who are not as similar to us as they seem, and Lloyd Biggle Jr's The Light that Never Was , which addresses the question of whether "animaloid" species are necessarily inferior to "humanoid" ones.

Greg Bear explores a world of competing Lamarckian ecosystems "ecoi" in Legacy The Butlerian idea that machines may eventually begin to evolve independently of their makers has become increasingly popular as real-world Computers have become more sophisticated; images of such evolutionary sequences have become more complex, as in James P Hogan 's Code of the Lifemaker Several recent images of universal evolutionary schemas — notably the one featured in Gregory Benford 's Across the Sea of Suns and the trilogy begun with Great Sky River — imagine a fundamental ongoing struggle for existence between organic and inorganic life-systems.

The beginnings of such a division are evident in Bruce Sterling 's series of stories featuring the Shapers and the Mechanists, which culminates in Schismatrix A related but somewhat different Universe-wide struggle for existence is revealed in the concluding volume of Brian Stableford 's Asgard trilogy, The Centre Cannot Hold , and an even stranger one is first glimpsed in The Angel of Pain , the second volume of another Stableford trilogy.

Mutational miracles still abound in modern sf, in such apocalyptic stories of future evolution as Greg Bear 's Blood Music June Analog ; exp and his less drastic Darwin's Radio , and there is a strong tendency to mystify evolution-related concepts such as " Ecology " and "symbiosis" see Parasitism and Symbiosis in a fashion which is at best interestingly metaphorical and at worst hazily metaphysical. Patterns of evolution on alien worlds see Life on Other Worlds are often placed in the service of some kind of Edenic mythology, and this is true even in the work of writers well versed in the biological sciences.

Perhaps this is not unduly surprising in an era when religious fundamentalists are still fighting the teaching of Darwinism in US schools, demanding equal time for "Creation Science" or its barely disguised successor "Intelligent Design" and frequently succeeding in censorship of science textbooks. Some evolutionary philosophers have not yet given up hope of producing a crucial modification of the Darwinian account of evolution which is more aesthetically appealing; among those to attempt it have been Rupert Sheldrake in The Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation , an idea adapted to sf use by Paul Cook in Duende Meadow Given the continued success of Darwinism as a source of explanations, however, it is lamentably unfortunate that so few sf stories have deployed the theory in any reasonably rigorous fashion.

An exception, perhaps, is Stephen Baxter 's part-documentary novel Evolution , which unsparingly traces the human species from its lemur-like ancestors in the Dinosaur era, through the present and on into far-future Devolution. About us Contact. It has been a vexatious problem in evolutionary studies to explain how such cooperation should evolve, let alone persist, in a world of self-maximizing egoists. Charles Darwin 's theory of how evolution works "By Means of Natural Selection " [9] is explicitly competitive " survival of the fittest " , Malthusian "struggle for existence" , even gladiatorial " nature, red in tooth and claw ".

Species are pitted against species for shared resources, similar species with similar needs and niches even more so, and individuals within species most of all. Darwin's explanation of how preferential survival of the slightest benefits can lead to advanced forms is the most important explanatory principle in biology, and extremely powerful in many other fields.

Who Is Writing the Future?

Such success has reinforced notions that life is in all respects a war of each against all, where every individual has to look out for himself, that your gain is my loss. In such a struggle for existence altruism voluntarily yielding a benefit to a non-relative and even cooperation working with another for a mutual benefit seem so antithetical to self-interest as to be the very kind of behavior that should be selected against.

Yet cooperation and seemingly even altruism have evolved and persist, including even interspecific cooperation and naturalists have been hard pressed to explain why. The popularity of the evolution of cooperation — the reason it is not an obscure technical issue of interest to only a small number of specialists — is in part because it mirrors a larger issue where the realms of political philosophy, ethics, and biology intersect: the ancient issue of individual interests versus group interests.

On one hand, the so-called " Social Darwinians " roughly, those who would use the "survival of the fittest" of Darwinian evolution to justify the cutthroat competitiveness of laissez-faire capitalism [11] declaim that the world is an inherently competitive "dog eat dog" jungle, where every individual has to look out for himself. The writer Ayn Rand damned " altruism " and declared selfishness a virtue. Huxley and Herbert Spencer. What they read into the theory was then read out by Social Darwinians as scientific justification for their social and economic views such as poverty being a natural condition and social reform an unnatural meddling.

Such views of evolution, competition, and the survival of the fittest are explicit in the ethos of modern capitalism , as epitomized by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in The Gospel of Wealth :. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment; the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of the few; and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential to the future progress of the race.

Carnegie While the validity of extrapolating moral and political views from science is questionable, the significance of such views in modern society is undoubtable. On the other hand, other philosophers have long observed that cooperation in the form of a " social contract " is necessary for human society, but saw no way of attaining that short of a coercive authority. As Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan :. Hobbes , p. Rousseau , p. In order then that the social contract may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body.

This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free Even Herman Melville , in Moby-Dick , has the cannibal harpooner Queequeg explain why he has saved the life of someone who had been jeering him as so:. We cannibals must help these Christians. The original role of government is to provide the coercive power to enforce the social contract and in commercial societies, contracts and covenants generally. Where government does not exist or cannot reach it is often deemed the role of religion to promote prosocial and moral behavior, but this tends to depend on threats of hell-fire what Hobbes called "the terror of some power" ; such inducements seem more mystical than rational, and philosophers have been hard-pressed to explain why self-interest should yield to morality, why there should be any duty to be "good".

Yet cooperation, and even altruism and morality, are prevalent, even in the absence of coercion, even though it seems that a properly self-regarding individual should reject all such social strictures and limitations. As early as the Russian naturalist Petr Kropotkin observed that the species that survived were where the individuals cooperated, that "mutual aid" cooperation was found at all levels of existence.

Darwin's theory of natural selection is a profoundly powerful explanation of how evolution works; its undoubted success strongly suggests an inherently antagonistic relationship between unrelated individuals. Yet cooperation is prevalent, seems beneficial, and even seems to be essential to human society. Explaining this seeming contradiction, and accommodating cooperation, and even altruism, within Darwinian theory is a central issue in the theory of cooperation.

Darwin's explanation of how evolution works is quite simple, but the implications of how it might explain complex phenomena are not at all obvious; it has taken over a century to elaborate see modern synthesis. A possible explanation of altruism is provided by the theory of group selection first suggested by Darwin himself while grappling with issue of social insects [19] which argues that natural selection can act on groups : groups that are more successful — for any reason, including learned behaviors — will benefit the individuals of the group, even if they are not related.

It has had a powerful appeal, but has not been fully persuasive, in part because of difficulties regarding cheaters that participate in the group without contributing. Another explanation is provided by the genetic kinship theory of William D. Hamilton : [21] if a gene causes an individual to help other individuals that carry copies of that gene, then the gene has a net benefit even with the sacrifice of a few individuals.

The classic example is the social insects, where the workers — which are sterile, and therefore incapable of passing on their genes — benefit the queen, who is essentially passing on copies of "their" genes. This is further elaborated in the "selfish gene" theory of Richard Dawkins , that the unit of evolution is not the individual organism, but the gene. In a paper [24] Robert Trivers demonstrated how reciprocal altruism can evolve between unrelated individuals, even between individuals of entirely different species.

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And the relationship of the individuals involved is exactly analogous to the situation in a certain form of the Prisoner's Dilemma. As Trivers says, it "take[s] the altruism out of altruism. It does not matter why the individuals cooperate. The individuals may be prompted to the exchange of "altruistic" acts by entirely different genes, or no genes in particular, but both individuals and their genomes can benefit simply on the basis of a shared exchange. In particular, "the benefits of human altruism are to be seen as coming directly from reciprocity — not indirectly through non-altruistic group benefits".

Trivers' theory is very powerful. Not only can it replace group selection, it also predicts various observed behavior, including moralistic aggression, [28] gratitude and sympathy, guilt and reparative altruism, [29] and development of abilities to detect and discriminate against subtle cheaters.

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What Darwin Didn’t Know

The benefits of such reciprocal altruism was dramatically demonstrated by a pair of tournaments held by Robert Axelrod around Axelrod initially solicited strategies from other game theorists to compete in the first tournament. Each strategy was paired with each other strategy for iterations of a Prisoner's Dilemma game, and scored on the total points accumulated through the tournament. The results of the first tournament were analyzed and published, and a second tournament held to see if anyone could find a better strategy.

Axelrod analyzed the results, and made some interesting discoveries about the nature of cooperation, which he describes in his book [30]. In both actual tournaments and various replays the best performing strategies were nice : [31] that is, they were never the first to defect. Many of the competitors went to great lengths to gain an advantage over the "nice" and usually simpler strategies, but to no avail: tricky strategies fighting for a few points generally could not do as well as nice strategies working together.

TFT and other "nice" strategies generally "won, not by doing better than the other player, but by eliciting cooperation [and] by promoting the mutual interest rather than by exploiting the other's weakness. Being "nice" can be beneficial, but it can also lead to being suckered.


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To obtain the benefit — or avoid exploitation — it is necessary to be provocable to both retaliation and forgiveness. When the other player defects, a nice strategy must immediately be provoked into retaliatory defection. OK, moving on…. Since the days of dial-up, access to the Internet is available almost everywhere. It is rare these days for consumers to go into a coffee shop, library or any place of business and not be able to access a Wi-Fi signal. These applications can do everything from tracking food portions to sending massive amounts of information in a click of a button. How we communicate continued to evolve as well.

Is Technology Moving Too Fast? - Evolution of Technology And the Inventions that Changed the World

Remember face-to-face conversations? Hand-written letters?

Purpose Drives Technology Forward

Waiting by the phone — the kind with the cord? Technology perpetually reshapes our communication. Perhaps the most noticeable difference in the Internet today is the ability to be personable in such an impersonal setting. Constant connection seems to be the name of the game. And along with connection, we see instant availability. Social networks continue to change the way people engage with one another. Ironically, the constant connection and way people interact with one another seems to morph to a more superficial setting online.

Although superficial at times, this form of communication helps people stay closer to each other when they would have otherwise lost contact. Face-to-face conversations via technology are resurfacing, though, and even strengthening, thanks to higher-quality video and streaming capabilities enter: Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, FaceTime, live streaming, etc. Instead, companies can engage with consumers in a more human manner, people can talk to people face-to-face without the need for costly travel and reaching out to people all over the world is faster and easier.

Remember when Netflix was a primarily a DVD delivery company, bringing your favorite movie via mail? Today, people are cutting the cord when it comes to cable, opting for digital streaming and video services like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu.

Purpose Drives Technology Forward

Big brands are trying to keep up and compete, doing their best to one-up each other with original content, availability and delivery channels e. User-generated content is a force to acknowledge as well. Thanks to streaming options like Facebook Live, Instagram Live and Periscope, individuals and business are able to broadcast their own videos and content. In a nutshell, videos are popping up everywhere and trending big time.

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