Posts Tagged ‘Evolution’

Sentences (#73)


The problem, in a nut shell, is that we are shallow information consumers, evolved to generate as much gene-promoting behaviour out of as little environmental information as possible.

(Read the whole thing everything he’s ever written.)

September 13, 2016admin 60 Comments »

Twitter cuts (#76)

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August 11, 2016admin 27 Comments »
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Sentences (#65)

Peter Watts in pursuit of abstract horror (Echopraxia, p.297):

The less he found, the more he feared.

Plus vampire acausal trade bonus: “… they’d acted in perfect sync, knowing that others they’d never met would have worked out the same scenario” (p. 289). — A classic Age of the Basilisk threat structure.

And one more (p.292):

“A stealth supernet fine-tuned for the manipulation of pawns with a specific skill-set suited to military applications. And it just emerged?”
Moore smiled faintly. “Of course. No complex finely tuned system could ever just evolve. Something must have created it.”

July 17, 2016admin 13 Comments »
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Quote note (#266)

It is surely a crucial (and inadequately acknowledged) feature of Darwin’s The Origin of Species that its point of departure is artificial selection, which might also be described as primordial technology, or the foundation of material civilization. Natural selection acquires definition through comparison with the (predominantly unconscious) process of domestication, or cultivation. This is the transitional paragraph (from Chapter IV):

As man can produce, and certainly has produced, a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not natural selection effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters: Nature, if I many be allowed to personify the natural preservation or survival of the fittest, cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they are useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good: Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully exercised by her, as is implied by the fact of their selection. Man keeps the natives of many climates in the same country; he seldom exercises each selected character in some peculiar and fitting manner; he feeds a long- and short-beaked pigeon on the same food; he does not exercise a long-backed or long-legged quadruped in any peculiar manner; he exposes sheep with long and short wool to the same climate. He does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions. He often begins his selection from some half-monstrous form; or at least by some modification prominent enough to catch the eye or to be plainly useful to him. Under Nature, the slightest difference of structure or constitution may well turn the nicely balanced scale in the struggle for life, and so be preserved. How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will be his results, compared with those accumulated by Nature during whole geological periods! Can we wonder, then, that Natures productions should be far “truer” in character than man’s productions; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship?

July 10, 2016admin 22 Comments »

Fish People

Since the opportunities for XS to agree (in advance) with PZ Myers don’t come along too regularly, it’s worth seizing upon those that do. For anyone who thinks cladistics are important, this point is worth strongly defending:

There are multiple meanings of “fish”. We can use it to refer to specific species or an extant category of animals: salmon are fish, halibut are fish, herring are fish. No one objects to that, and they all understand that if I said “humans are still salmon”, that would be wrong. […] But another way the term is used is as a descriptor for a clade. A taxonomic clade is a “grouping that includes a common ancestor and all the descendants (living and extinct) of that ancestor”. […] So, for instance, humans belong to the mammalian clade, which includes mice and cats and cows. If we have transhuman, part-cyborg descendants, they will still be mammals, because, note, by definition a clade must include all the descendants of an ancestor. We’re trapped! There’s no way our progeny can exit the clade!

In fact, it’s such a sound point, it’s worth generalizing.

July 6, 2016admin 17 Comments »

Quote note (#253)

The cephalization great divergence:

One mystery of human evolution is why our cognition differs qualitatively from our closest evolutionary relatives. Here we show how natural selection for large brains may lead to premature newborns, which themselves require more intelligence to raise, and thus may select for even larger brains. As we show, these dynamics can be self-reinforcing and lead to runaway selection for extremely high intelligence and helpless newborns. We test a prediction of this account: the helplessness of a primate’s newborns should strongly predict their intelligence. We show that this is so and relate our account to theories of human uniqueness and the question of why human-level intelligence took so long to evolve in the history of life. (XS emphasis.)

Any model outputting the result emphasized has to be worth taking seriously. Abstracting it to a degree that permits emulation is more of a problem, but it’s also the only thing worth aiming for.

May 28, 2016admin 37 Comments »

Moron bites (#9)

Richard Dawkins collides with the Zeitgeist. A comment thread mash-up:

Why does he do it? I don’t get it. … Dawkins doesn’t realize he’s been infected by a mind-virus. … He’s just a petty little shitlord who pretends to have standards and principles, but actually has none. … “Meltdown” doesn’t seem to cover it anymore. … I’m embarrassed to have any of Dawkins books on my shelf now. … Sweet zombie Jesus. … If anyone cared to bother, it would make a fun blog post to compare and contrast the wit & wisdom of Richard Dawkins and James Watson. I don’t know if they ever met, but they have so much in common … Dawkins is now the Trump of atheism … I bought “Ancestors Tale” after I got over the fremdschämen “Dear Muslima” has caused, but Dawkins says something embarassing since then on such a regular basis, that I might not be able to read that book ever. I used to enjoy his science books, but now I cannot get over a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see his name. … I’ve got his books and videos – I think I’ll give them away … So Dawkins now behaves like Marine Le Pen? … When Dawkins was at the height of his fame as an anti-religious campaigner, he was quite unfairly portrayed by many religious commentators as an angry agitator who raged away without showing any real insight into the subject. And now, here we are. … either Richard Dawkins has a layperson’s knowledge of evolution, all the way back when he was publishing scientific papers on the subject, or he never thought critically about the subject because he wanted to believe it. He wanted those sexist results to be true, and had no problems shutting out people who tried to set him straight. … So PZ, think you might remove Richard Dawkins links from the sidebar here? … He’s now siding with actual fascists. Totes rational the man. …


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February 1, 2016admin 135 Comments »
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Quote note (#212)

John Gray on the supernaturalism of the New Atheists:

The belief that we live under some kind of supernatural guidance is not a relic of superstition that might some day be left behind but an evolutionary adaptation that goes with being human. […] It’s a conclusion that is anathema to the current generation of atheists – Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and others – for whom religion is a poisonous concoction of lies and delusion. These “new atheists” are simple souls. In their view, which derives from rationalist philosophy and not from evolutionary theory, the human mind is a faculty that seeks an accurate representation of the world. This leaves them with something of a problem. Why are most human beings, everywhere and at all times, so wedded to some version of religion? It can only be that their minds have been deformed by malignant priests and devilish power elites. Atheists have always been drawn to demonology of this kind; otherwise, they cannot account for the ­persistence of the beliefs they denounce as poisonously irrational. The inveterate human inclination to religion is, in effect, the atheist problem of evil.

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January 21, 2016admin 30 Comments »

The Harshness

There has been a self-propelling gore-meme building here about the cosmic butcher’s yard. It might be necessary to scrub that (or perhaps hose it down). Until we’re discussing a nuked butcher’s yard, we’re not approaching a topic Gnonologists should be ready to get out of bed for.

‘Extinction Events Can Accelerate Evolution’ argue Joel Lehman and Risto Miikkulainen (at the link cited). Their abstract:

Extinction events impact the trajectory of biological evolution significantly. They are often viewed as upheavals to the evolutionary process. In contrast, this paper supports the hypothesis that although they are unpredictably destructive, extinction events may in the long term accelerate evolution by increasing evolvability. In particular, if extinction events extinguish indiscriminately many ways of life, indirectly they may select for the ability to expand rapidly through vacated niches. Lineages with such an ability are more likely to persist through multiple extinctions. Lending computational support for this hypothesis, this paper shows how increased evolvability will result from simulated extinction events in two computational models of evolved behavior. The conclusion is that although they are destructive in the short term, extinction events may make evolution more prolific in the long term.

(The computer dimension catches Kurzweil’s attention, but that’s a distraction right now.)

Chronic cosmic holocaust, it seems, is just for the tweaks. It’s mostly conservative, preventing deterioriation in mutational load, through quasi-continuous culling of nature’s minor freakeries. In order to actually up the game, nothing quite substitutes for a super-compressed catastrophe (or mass extinction) which cranks evolution to the meta-level of superior ‘evolvability’. By gnawing-off and burning entire branches of life, crises plowing deep into the X-risk zone stimulate plasticity in the biosphere’s phyletic foundations. As Kurzweil glosses the finding: “… some evolutionary biologists hypothesize that extinction events actually accelerate evolution by promoting those lineages that are the most evolvable, meaning ones that can quickly create useful new features and abilities.”

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September 1, 2015admin 16 Comments »
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Against the Ant People

The heated controversy running through biology right now — pronounced, at least, in its zone of intersection with the wider public sphere — seems like something that should be inciting fission within the NRx. The collision between Hamiltonian kin selection (defended most prominently in this case by Richard Dawkins) and group selection (E. O. Wilson) drives a wedge between the baseline biorealism accepted by all tendencies within the Neoreactionary Trike and the much stronger version of racial identitarianism that flourishes within the ethno-nationalist faction. Until recent times, proto-Hamiltonian hereditarianism has been strongly aligned with classical liberalism, while ideological racial collectivism represents a later — and very different — political tradition. Not so much as a chirp yet, though. Are people unpersuaded about this argument’s relevance?

On a slight tangent (but ultimately, only a slight one) Nick Szabo’s epically brilliant essay ‘Shelling Out’ is remarkable — among other things — for its profound biorealist foundations. It makes an excellent theoretical preparation for Jim’s paper on ‘Natural Law and Natural Rights’, which also draws productively upon John Maynard Smith’s game-theoretic model of the ‘evolutionary stable strategy’ as the natural substrate of psychological and cultural deep-structure.

This is an important opportunity to put down some discriminatory markers. Can we turf group selectionist ideas out of NRx entirely, or do we have to fight about it?

December 9, 2014admin 59 Comments »