Evo Devo Replication: The U-Shaped Curve of Change
At the beginning of this chapter we noted that all replicating evo devo systems show SOE partitioning, in which their intelligence is split between the initiating Seed, the replicating and hierarchically unfolding Organism, and the nurturing Environment. It’s time to see another general feature of evo devo systems, one that is apparently always associated with their replication.
In such systems, we can also always observe a U-Shaped Curve of Change over the evo devo system’s life cycle. At the beginning of the life cycle, as the seed is unfolding into the environment, a deceleration of general events occurs, once the seed is fully unfolded, we then see an acceleration of special events on the path to replication. Let’s look at just three complex systems, living systems, stars, and the universe itself, to see this pattern.
In biological systems, sustained positive feedback loops are rarely seen. When we do find them, they are almost exclusively associated with one specific developmental function: the path to replication.
As the biophysicist Alexander Zotin showed (picture left), we always see an energetic deceleration after birth, as the zygote unfolds, followed later by an energetic acceleration on the path to replication. From the point of the first cell division forward, organismic development is decelerative. The furious energy flow per gram per time in embryologic development proceeds ever slower the larger the embryo becomes. The infant human gets its first doubling in birth weight in a matter of weeks, the second in months, the third in years, and soon after, no more doublings. Its adult size has been reached.
But on the path to replication, many key events are energetically accelerative. Think of puberty in mammals, with its chemically accelerative competitions every month in the eggs in the female, culminating in the one fittest egg that is selected for potential fertilization in each monthly cycle. In every mating cycle there are also accelerative courtship competitions culminating in mate selection. There are accelerative activities in coitus leading to insemination, accelerative competitions among sperm for fertilization of the egg, and a series of cellular accelerations leading to the “big bang” of a dividing egg, at which point things slow down again.
We see this in stars as well. All the modern Population I stars have heavy elements in them, which were formed in supernovas at the birth of those stars. In the first few moments of the supernova, there was furious heavy element production, which rapidly decreased as the stars expanded their matter-energy into space. Then, that matter-energy came together under gravity, the new stars began fusion again, and as they ran out of fuel, they began a gravitationally accelerated process of turning into a seed again, either a black hole or a supernova to generate another star.
The universe exhibits this U-Shaped Curve of Change as well. Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar (picture above right) depicts a series of accelerative emergences, beginning roughly in the middle of the universe’s life cycle to date. This is acceleration is the path to replication, being led by adaptive intelligence. When we map significant events in the early universe, we get the inverse, a rapid deceleration from events in the hot Big Bang (picture below left). Whether living system or universe, we see the same RVISC cycle.
Below is my crude first attempt at sketching a U-shaped curve for the universe. The axes are time and adaptive emergence of new complexity, computation, or intelligence (CCI). First things develop slower, then faster.
In the “R” phase of the RVISC cycle, the phase after initial replication, we are decelerating, as the complex system, whether baby or universe, grows to maturity, via primarily evolutionary methods (“VIS”). Then as we head to maturity, we shift to the “C” phase of the cycle, convergence, and begin a process of acceleration, on a path to the next replication. As we will see later these convergence processes increase our densification, interdependence, immunity, and inertia, maximizing our ability to arrive safely at the replication event.
In an organism, replication converges on the production of a fertilized cell, a seed for a new life. In the universe, accelerating civilizations may be packaging their intelligence into an increasingly STEM-compressed state that ends up looking like a black hole, a “seed” for something new.
Are we doing this packaging in order to merge with other universal intelligences? As a precursor to new universe creation? Inquiring minds would like to know.
In sum, just as the steep deceleration in many replicating complex systems signals a beginning of their unfolding, the steep accelerations in those systems signals an ending, a packaging up in preparation for replication. All the wishing in the world won’t make our current accelerations go away, or lessen their rate of growth. We must instead acknowledge, study, and understand them. The better we do, the better we can reap their benefits and avoid their disruptions and threats.