Archive of posts with tag 'evolution'

Evolution Has No Goal

February 27, 2024 • #

There’s a common misconception that evolution is “seeking” fitness — that there’s some inherent motivation in the process pushing toward a particular objective.

But evolution is an undirected process of mutation, testing, and accidental discovery of fitness. Within the genes of an organism, there is no memory acquiring feedback from these experimental genetic guesses. Genetic drift, mutation, and natural selection are evolution’s conjecture and criticism. But the criticism feedback loop doesn’t close in a single generation.

Evolution’s feedback loop is survival. If a gene survives, it will replicate. If it doesn’t, that mutation is “found” not to have worked (though...

The Two Enlightenments

February 20, 2024 • #

We learn about “The Enlightenment” as a singular entity, a historical age associated with rationality, scientific inquiry, humanism, and liberty. The Enlightenment and scientific revolution were defining moments that spawned an unprecedented period of progress and human flourishing. But in his book The Beginning of Infinity, David Deutsch adds useful texture for better understanding the motivations of the Enlightenment’s contributors.

He divides the movement into two broad forms: the “British” and the “Continental”.

Both branches agree on the core principles of rationality, progress, and freedom. Where they disagree is on how to achieve these goals. They pursue the same ends,...

Exapting Technologies

September 9, 2021 • #

New forms of technology tend not to materialize from thin air. The nature of innovation takes existing known technologies and remixes, extends, and co-opts them to create novelty.

Gordon Brander refers to it in this piece as “exapting infrastructure.” As in the case of the internet, it wasn’t nonexistent one day then suddenly connecting all of our computers the next. It wasn’t purposely designed from the beginning as a way for us to connect our millions of computers, phones, and smart TVs. In fact, many types of...

Image credits: Florida ECRRT

Weekend Reading: Raising Less, the Adjacent Possible, and Fire and Motion

August 15, 2020 • #

🧰 There Are More Uses For A Screwdriver Than You Can Calculate

Biologist Stuart Kauffman on biological functions and the “adjacent possible”:

The unexpected uses of features of organisms, or technologies, are precisely what happens in the evolution of the biosphere and econosphere, and the analog happens in cultural evolution with the uses of mores, cultural forms, regulations, traditions, in novel ways. In general, these possibles are novel functionalities, in an unbounded space of functionalities, and so are not mathematizable and derivable from...

Weekend Reading: Darwinian Gastronomy, Humboldt, and Taxes

November 16, 2019 • #

🌶 Darwinian Gastronomy

Turns out cultures from warmer climates evolved a taste for spicy foods to combat the presence of more diverse bacteria:

Alas, nothing in nature turns out to be that simple. Researchers now suggest that a taste for spices served a vital evolutionary purpose: keeping our ancestors alive. Spices, it turns out, can kill poisonous bacteria and fungi that may contaminate our food. In other words, developing a taste for these spices could be good for our health. And since food spoils more quickly in hotter weather, it’s only natural that warmer climates...