One Big Organism

Discussion in 'Health and medical' started by Tim Tyler, Feb 29, 2004.

  1. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Here's my essay on the possibility of life defeating the process of natural selection.

    As usual, it's probably best to read it in HTML on the WWW - rather than here in raw ASCII.

    If you feel you can manage that, the URL you need is:

    --> http://alife.co.uk/misc/one_big_organism/ <--

    One Big Organism
    ================

    The horrors of nature
    ---------------------
    Some authors have expressed horror at the evolutionary process that created us - and expressed the
    desire to "escape" from it - usually in some unspecified way.

    Prominent among these are Richard Dawkins [1] - who describes nature as "the ruthlessly cruel
    process that gave us all existence", and describes the process that made us as "wasteful,
    cruel and low".

    He says that nature gave us a brain capable of "understanding its own provenance, of deploring the
    moral implications and of fighting against them".

    He describes humanity as "the only potential island of refuge from the implications of [evolution]:
    from the cruelty, and the clumsy, blundering waste."

    Defeating natural selection
    ---------------------------
    Is what Dawkins talks about remotely possible?

    It is certainly clear that /individuals/ can opt out of the evolutionary process - but that doesn't
    seem to do them very much good - and merely creates a world without their kind in it.

    However there /is/ another approach to defteating natural selection which seems more worthy of
    investigation.

    Natural selection relies on /competition/ between agents.

    /Without/ such competition it has no variation on which to act - and it loses the ability to select
    between variants - and so it can no longer direct evolution.

    So - if the dominant organsms all fused together into one big organism - then perhaps they would no
    longer be the subject of evolutionary forces.

    ...and perhaps if all life fused together - into one big organism - then perhaps natural selection
    would completely come to an end.

    Will all living things fuse?
    ----------------------------
    The process of evolution seems to be characterised by building ever more deeply-nested heirarchies
    of organisms.

    I have argued elsewhere that humans and machines will form composite organisms - that the companies
    of today will come to increasingly resemble composite organisms - with their own inheritance
    mechanisms.

    Similarly, I regard it as possible that whole governments will also come to play the role of
    organisms - with companies acting as their organs.

    Today there are already some elements of global cooperation. There is - in some areas - a global
    marketplace. While this is more like an economy than an organism, an economy could turn into an
    organism over time.

    So, looking at our planet, it seems at least vaguely possible that it will /eventually/ be occupied
    by a dominant organism that spans the entire planet.

    Natural selection within organisms
    ----------------------------------
    In practice natural selection doesn't just occur /between/ organisms. It also happens /within/
    organisms - where it's referred to as somatic selection. In the process of development many more
    cells are born than survive - and those that are not needed die or are killed.

    So it seems /unlikely/ that natural selection can be eliminated completely. However, this sort of
    natural selection would probably be considered to be not so bad. The cells don't /mind/ dying. They
    even /deliberately/ commit suicide so that other cells have more space and nutrients. There's not
    really any suffering involved - and it seems to be the suffering that is found to be aesthetically
    displeasing.

    Selection within the organism need not happen very much. Some bits of the creature will inevitably
    die and need replacing through accidents and wear and tear. However, such problems can hopefully be
    minimised. Selection between components within the organism can be kept at low levels - and care
    could be taken to ensure no errors or variation are introduced.

    The end of parasites and symbiotes
    ----------------------------------
    For /all/ living organisms to fuse (and without this there's an ever-present risk of one of the still-
    evolving creatures coming to dominate), the dominant creature would need to eliminate all its
    parasites and symbiotes. Is that remotely feasible?

    Normally, there's no selection pressure to eliminate parasites beyond a certain point. When they are
    of little threat, the threat is hardly worth defending against. So it seems unlikely that a creature
    would normally bother wiping out all its parasites.

    However, let's suppose that the creature decided to make this its mission in life.

    The experience we have with creating engineered complex systems suggests that any complex
    organism is likely to be prone to parasite infections - and that eliminating them is very
    challenging - and while we have had some successes we are still nowhere near wiping out the
    parasites of our own species.

    However, it doesn't seem logically impossible. Maybe - with sufficient effort and application -
    perhaps the dominant creature could succeed in eliminating all its parasites and symbiotes.

    Cosmology
    ---------
    One world is an old dream. However as a matter of fact that there /is/ more than one world.

    In particular our solar system has multiple worlds in it - and it seems likely that life will
    visit them.

    Similarly, there are multiple stars in the galaxy - and it seems likely that many of them too will
    also harbour life.

    Can the idea of nature as one large organism /possibly/ survive being physically divided by such
    impressive physical barriers?

    After all, the ants in a nest can survive some degree of physical separation - and yet they still
    remain united as a single creature.

    Perhaps /even/ this can't /totally/ be ruled out.

    /Maybe/ one day - in the far distant future - the whole /universe/ will be filled with a single
    living organism.

    It could call itself "The winner".

    After the race is over
    ----------------------
    What force would then drive the resulting system? Self- directed "mutations" would probably
    determine the course of the system after that point. The organism could do as it liked - without
    fear that some other organism would eat its lunch.

    There would be no particularly obvious motivation towards self-improvement any more - unless the
    organism dissolved into separate components again and they began to compete with one another once
    more, that is.

    The future
    ----------
    Regardless of whether all this eventually happens - or whether it is merely an extremely far-fetched
    and elaborate fantasy ;-) - it seems unlikely to happen for many /billions/ of years to come.

    I reckon we'll be looking at the effects of natural selection /at least/ until then.

    References
    ----------
    [1] - Richard Dawkins - A Devil's Chaplain (the essay)
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to reply.
     
    Tags:


  2. Malcolm

    Malcolm Guest

    "Tim Tyler" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > For /all/ living organisms to fuse (and without this there's an ever-present risk of one of the
    > still-evolving creatures coming to dominate), the dominant creature would need to eliminate all
    > its parasites and symbiotes. Is that remotely feasible?
    >
    Parasites don't damage their hosts out of spite, but because doing so is a consequence of their
    reproductive strategy. However benefitting the host is also good for the parasite. Mitochondria may
    have at one stage been parasitic organisms that have become so symbiotic that they are now
    effectively the same creature as the host.
     
  3. Well, you're little piece comes across as just sarcasm rather than any elaborate farfetched fantasy.
    I would state the idea of "one big organism" is patently absurd. We are a competing species and
    natural selection will be around for some time. How long nobody really knows but likely for millions
    of years if not longer. It seems, however, when a species reaches certain points in its evolution
    where it is very much "out of whack" cataclysmic events can occur which bring things back to
    homeostasis. I think there is such the possibility of such a cataclysmic event with our species. It
    could be natural or through nuclear weapons.

    Some authors have expressed horror at the evolutionary processes that created us and have expressed
    a desire to escape from it. I think it is moot to attempt to apply morality to Darwinian evolution.
    Certainly the evolutionary processes which created us were necessary. The question is are all of
    these "processes" still necessary and is there any way to possibly modify them in the future? If one
    acknowledges not all of these "processes" of Darwinian evolution are necessary, that in fact some
    are no longer adaptive and threaten our survival as a species...then it becomes an issue of
    continued survival...not morality or expression of horror at natural selection.

    I don't think there is any way to "escape" from natural selection but there is the possibility,
    albeit hundreds of years from now, for science to play more of a role in shaping and guiding human
    evolution. The "key" is genetic engineering and despite what horrors occur in the world the field of
    genetics will continue to make advances.

    Eliminating genetic disorders through genetic engineering, removing aggression, augmenting certain
    aspects of intelligence, etc. would certainly not eliminate natural selection but it would gradually
    influence it.

    But you seem to be "rooted" in what you can't help but be. I expect things to get worse in the
    world. Party while you can!

    Michael Ragland

    Here's my essay on the possibility of life defeating the process of natural selection. As usual,
    it's probably best to read it in HTML on the WWW - rather than here in raw ASCII. If you feel you
    can manage that, the URL you need is:     --> http://alife.co.uk/misc/one_big_organism/ <-- One
    Big Organism
    ================
      The horrors of nature   --------------------- Some authors have expressed horror at the
    evolutionary process that created us - and expressed the desire to "escape" from it - usually in
    some unspecified way. Prominent among these are Richard Dawkins [1] - who describes nature as "the
    ruthlessly cruel process that gave us all existence", and describes the process that made us as
    "wasteful, cruel and low". He says that nature gave us a brain capable of "understanding its own
    provenance, of deploring the moral implications and of fighting against them". He describes humanity
    as "the only potential island of refuge from the implications of [evolution]: from the cruelty, and
    the clumsy, blundering waste."   Defeating natural selection   --------------------------- Is what
    Dawkins talks about remotely possible? It is certainly clear that /individuals/ can opt out of the
    evolutionary process - but that doesn't seem to do them very much good - and merely creates a world
    without their kind in it. However there /is/ another approach to defteating natural selection which
    seems more worthy of investigation. Natural selection relies on /competition/ between agents.
    /Without/ such competition it has no variation on which to act - and it loses the ability to select
    between variants - and so it can no longer direct evolution. So - if the dominant organsms all fused
    together into one big organism - then perhaps they would no longer be the subject of evolutionary
    forces. ..and perhaps if all life fused together - into one big organism - then perhaps natural
    selection would completely come to an end.   Will all living things fuse?   ----------------------------
    The process of evolution seems to be characterised by building ever more deeply-nested heirarchies
    of organisms. I have argued elsewhere that humans and machines will form composite organisms - that
    the companies of today will come to increasingly resemble composite organisms - with their own
    inheritance mechanisms. Similarly, I regard it as possible that whole governments will also come to
    play the role of organisms - with companies acting as their organs. Today there are already some
    elements of global cooperation. There is - in some areas - a global marketplace. While this is more
    like an economy than an organism, an economy could turn into an organism over time. So, looking at
    our planet, it seems at least vaguely possible that it will /eventually/ be occupied by a dominant
    organism that spans the entire planet.   Natural selection within organisms   ----------------------------------
    In practice natural selection doesn't just occur /between/ organisms. It also happens /within/
    organisms - where it's referred to as somatic selection. In the process of development many more
    cells are born than survive - and those that are not needed die or are killed. So it seems
    /unlikely/ that natural selection can be eliminated completely. However, this sort of natural
    selection would probably be considered to be not so bad. The cells don't /mind/ dying. They even
    /deliberately/ commit suicide so that other cells have more space and nutrients. There's not really
    any suffering involved - and it seems to be the suffering that is found to be aesthetically
    displeasing. Selection within the organism need not happen very much. Some bits of the creature will
    inevitably die and need replacing through accidents and wear and tear. However, such problems can
    hopefully be minimised. Selection between components within the organism can be kept at low levels -
    and care could be taken to ensure no errors or variation are introduced.   The end of parasites and
    symbiotes   ---------------------------------- For /all/ living organisms to fuse (and without this
    there's an ever-present risk of one of the still-evolving creatures coming to dominate), the
    dominant creature would need to eliminate all its parasites and symbiotes. Is that remotely
    feasible? Normally, there's no selection pressure to eliminate parasites beyond a certain point.
    When they are of little threat, the threat is hardly worth defending against. So it seems unlikely
    that a creature would normally bother wiping out all its parasites. However, let's suppose that the
    creature decided to make this its mission in life. The experience we have with creating engineered
    complex systems suggests that any complex organism is likely to be prone to parasite infections -
    and that eliminating them is very challenging - and while we have had some successes we are still
    nowhere near wiping out the parasites of our own species. However, it doesn't seem logically
    impossible. Maybe - with sufficient effort and application - perhaps the dominant creature could
    succeed in eliminating all its parasites and symbiotes.   Cosmology   --------- One world is an old
    dream. However as a matter of fact that there /is/ more than one world. In particular our solar
    system has multiple worlds in it - and it seems likely that life will visit them. Similarly, there
    are multiple stars in the galaxy - and it seems likely that many of them too will also harbour life.
    Can the idea of nature as one large organism /possibly/ survive being physically divided by such
    impressive physical barriers? After all, the ants in a nest can survive some degree of physical
    separation - and yet they still remain united as a single creature. Perhaps /even/ this can't
    /totally/ be ruled out. /Maybe/ one day - in the far distant future - the whole /universe/ will be
    filled with a single living organism. It could call itself "The winner".   After the race is over
      ---------------------- What force would then drive the resulting system? Self- directed
    "mutations" would probably determine the course of the system after that point. The organism could
    do as it liked - without fear that some other organism would eat its lunch. There would be no
    particularly obvious motivation towards self-improvement any more - unless the organism dissolved
    into separate components again and they began to compete with one another once more, that is.   The
    future   ---------- Regardless of whether all this eventually happens - or whether it is merely an
    extremely far-fetched and elaborate fantasy ;-) - it seems unlikely to happen for many /billions/ of
    years to come. I reckon we'll be looking at the effects of natural selection /at least/ until then.
      References   ----------
    [1] - Richard Dawkins - A Devil's Chaplain (the essay)
    --
    __________
      |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to
    reply.
     
  4. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Michael Ragland <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:

    [ http://alife.co.uk/misc/one_big_organism/ ]

    > Well, you're little piece comes across as just sarcasm rather than any elaborate farfetched
    > fantasy. I would state the idea of "one big organism" is patently absurd. We are a competing
    > species and natural selection will be around for some time. How long nobody really knows but
    > likely for millions of years if not longer.

    I do think the largest organisms will continue to grow - without much
    limit. Maybe when they are the size of the planet they will reach a bit of a natural limit
    for a while.

    All life fusing - or, equivalently, perhaps a few agents entering into a cooperative cabal where the
    members swear not to compete with one another
    - seems to me to be about the only way natural selection could be ended - without the death of all
    sentient organisms.

    I was suprised it was remotely possible (without new physics being involved). The idea of far-
    future complex adaptive systems not being subject to natural selection at all was not previously
    familiar to me.
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove lock to reply.
     
  5. Tim,

    Beleive it or not, I wrote a response to your other post on the future of the genome, and suggested
    much the same single organism you did here. Strangely enough, I had not read this before writing the
    other - but look how similar they are.
     
  6. "Tim Tyler" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Michael Ragland <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:
    >
    > [ http://alife.co.uk/misc/one_big_organism/ ]
    >
    > > Well, you're little piece comes across as just sarcasm
    rather than any
    > > elaborate farfetched fantasy. I would state the idea of
    "one big
    > > organism" is patently absurd. We are a competing species
    and natural
    > > selection will be around for some time. How long nobody
    really knows but
    > > likely for millions of years if not longer.
    >
    > I do think the largest organisms will continue to grow -
    without much
    > limit. Maybe when they are the size of the planet they
    will reach
    > a bit of a natural limit for a while.
    >
    > All life fusing - or, equivalently, perhaps a few agents
    entering into a
    > cooperative cabal where the members swear not to compete
    with one another
    > - seems to me to be about the only way natural selection
    could be ended -
    > without the death of all sentient organisms.
    >
    > I was suprised it was remotely possible (without new
    physics being
    > involved). The idea of far-future complex adaptive
    systems not being
    > subject to natural selection at all was not previously
    familiar to me.
    > --
    > __________
    > |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove
    lock to reply.

    I think if it happens, the "winner" is more likely to be slime mold rather than something like us.
    :) Climate and general environments will continue to be one of the primary driving force for evolution--
    however, if humans do manage to survive without regressing technologicaly for a few more kiloyears,
    tech will allow full control of the environment (here, and on other planets,) and on all genomes as
    well. I think it's possible that someday we'll be able to modify genomes "on the fly" so to speak
    (i.e., on our living selves,) but even if that's not possible, we'll certainly guide our progeny to
    myriad genetic and morphological forms suited to any desired environment. Curing today's genetic
    disoeders is only scratching the surface of our biological future. ...tonyC
    ---------------------
    see: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1894&e=3&u=/ap/20040302/ap_on_he_me/stem_cells

    Support stem-cell research--vote Bush out of office!
     
  7. Michael Ragland wrote:
    >
    > Some authors have expressed horror at the evolutionary processes that created us and have
    > expressed a desire to escape from it. I think it is moot to attempt to apply morality to Darwinian
    > evolution.

    For one, Darwinian evolution doesn't reduce to competition and natural selection ; the more
    competition there is, the more dynamic evolution is, and the more dynamic evolution is, the more
    unstable the playing field. The common natural pattern of response to competition is specialization
    that leads away from competition.

    For two, while "applying" morality to Darwinian evolution indeed looks like a fruitless idea, one
    can on the other hand "apply" the wisdom of Darwinian evolution to morality. With fruit.

    This doesn't mean at all justifying a social jungle promoting competition, it means noting that
    "let's kill death" pretty much describes in a nutshell the natural dynamics of darwinian evolution -
    whence "life of death" describes a correlation of premature mortality with the genetic setup.
    Evolution drives populations away from regular causes of premature mortality as it gets measured by
    a correlation with the genetic setup.

    From this, one can ascribe to morality the role of cultural implementation of this "let's kill
    death" dynamics of genetic evolution. And then note that the lamarckian and sociologic nature of
    cultural evolution doesn't by itself guarantee such a dynamics. And in the end, one can side with
    Dawkins on the task of killing stale morals sacralized away from the government of current
    mortality facts. Epidemiology replaces theology, public health organizations replace churches.

    Regards, MC
    --
    666 ?? -- 666 ~ .666 ~ 2/3 ~ 1 - 1/3 ~ tertium non datur ~ the excluded middle
    ~ "either you are with us, or you are against us" !!
     
  8. TomHendricks474 wrote:
    > << For one, Darwinian evolution doesn't reduce to competition and natural selection ; >>
    >
    >
    > No but it does reduce to nurturing (and later symbiosis) or protection (and later competition).

    You mean mom (and later wives) and dad (and later colleagues) ? Now that's precisely what I called
    fruitless. Attempts to "apply" morality to darwinism, rather than the converse. So I guess your post
    I need to read as written against this judgment of mine.

    >
    > Specifically once there is a membrane then we have inside and outside the membrane.

    Mon stays at home while dad goes to work, ok.

    > And both can be divided to two actions.
    >
    > Individual acting or reacting with what's outside membrane (either for what nurtures, or against
    > what doesn't)

    Dad, ok.

    >
    > Individual acting or reacting with what's inside membrane (either for what nurtures, or against
    > what doesn't)

    And mom, ok.

    >
    > Now look closer. Individual acting or reacting with what's outside membrane
    >
    > 1. move towards - for nurturing of any kind = nurtures
    > 2. move against - to protect = competes (self against environmental dangers outside membrane)

    Dad does good at work but it's a risky life for him, especially if he is a soldier. Ok.

    >
    > Individual acting or reacting with what's inside membrane
    > 3. hold what nurtures = nurtures
    > 4. move against what does not nurture and excrete out = competes (self against non-self inside
    > membrane)

    Mom keeps the fridge full and rules over the kids, ok.

    >
    > These 4 options of the cell membrane - can evolve forward to all types of behavior

    If you really want to put this that way, but I don't think it fits the meaning of "to evolve"
    implied by the name of the newsgroup.

    Regards, MC
    --
    "On nait tous les metres du meme monde"
     
  9. TomHendricks474 wrote:
    > << You mean mom (and later wives) and dad (and later
    > colleagues) ? Now that's precisely what I called
    > fruitless. Attempts to "apply" morality to darwinism >>
    >
    >
    > No. I'm saying that the basic drive of all living things
    > to food in - waste out led to all the rest.
    >
    > With the 4 options being
    > 1. food taken in
    > 2. food not taken in
    > 3. food held in
    > 4. food not held in
    >
    > Can you name any evolutionary step that wasn't a
    > refinement of these 4 options?
    >

    Ok, this means you claim you can picture any evolutionary
    step as a refinement of the above.

    Let's see... hmmm there exists some parthenogenetic species
    of lizards,

    Explain it as a refinement of the above. And please don't
    confuse semen with food.

    Regards, MC
    --
    "What's F(Syracuse) if F(Eureka) is the = in E=mc^2 ?"
     
Loading...