Scientific and Technological Evo Devo
After biological and psychological evolutionary development, science and technology are perhaps the next major system we should strive to see as engaging in both evolutionary experiment and irreversible and predictable cumulative development.
Scientific hypotheses and technical solutions, each imperfect and biased by our world views, compete with each other in an evolutionary, selective manner to explain the evidence or solve the problem at hand. At the same time, scientific and technical knowledge and capacity accumulates at an accelerating pace. S&T are already the most powerful and rapidly changing systems on Earth.
As very few in the philosophy of science, science, technology and society, technology dynamics, and related academic communities will admit today, S&T increasingly constrain and determine the futures of societal systems, often in little-understood ways. Clearly the growth of efficient, effective, and intelligent new solutions to problems, and the redundant sharing of them across the planet, is like a one-way ratchet, moving us inevitably to a more complex, intelligence-rich world. But what else can we say about that ratchet?
In the model of universal evolutionary development, and in the Eight Goals, we have proposed some of the emerging constraints, and developmental portals, waiting ahead for an increasingly S&T-capable humanity. If the evo devo model is at least very roughly correct, will modern science and philosophy wake up to recognize the evolutionary developmental nature of the universe before human-surpassing machine intelligences (the technological singularity) predictably arrive sometime this century and definitively show it to us?
The answer to this evolutionary question of timing is hard to predict. But I do think it is a good prediction that as humanity continues its incredible rise, our leaders, planners, and builders must become evolutionary developmentalists if we are to learn to see reality through the universe’s eyes, not just our own.
In Chapter 2 and this chapter, we have argued that a set of universal developmental processes appear to be driving accelerating technological change. We have called those processes STEM compression (STEM efficiency and density of computation and physical transformation) and Densification and Dematerialization (“D&D”). We have also used the evo devo perspective to expand these “drivers” beyond D&D to include six other important variables, calling them Eight Goals of complex adaptive systems. We have even proposed, in the transcension hypothesis, that all advanced universal civilizations may end up leaving normal space for some kind of “inner space”, most likely black holes, as the most efficient way to meet all other universal civilizations to compare and contrast their imperfect knowledge, perhaps as a step on a path to universal replication. All of these are of course very preliminary and speculative models, but hopefully they at least advance the discussion on these topics, at a time when scholarship in these areas is still quite immature.
We have also argued that there are a number of coming developments that appear highly probable, from our current perspective. These include conversational interfaces, personal sims, humanoid robotics, and the technological singularity. Increasingly intimate physical-virtual interfaces, via hyperrealistic virtual worlds, mirror worlds, augmented reality, wearable computers, the internet of things, and even implants and perhaps even some kind of digital memory interfaces have been discussed as probable coming developments. We have even argued that within the next thirty years, a politically significant minority of people will come to believe that brain or whole body preservation upon biological death is something all developed societies should make increasingly available and affordable, and those who do so will reasonably expect to have some kind of digital afterlife, as a secular version of the religious afterlife.
These are some of the more obvious examples of developmental futures that seem likely, when one looks carefully at today’s accelerating science, technology, and computation. The better we get at carefully building and critiquing our developmental models, and the more we help our clients and the public to see the world in both evolutionary and developmental terms, the better we can all get at steering toward the positive sum destinations that are implicit in the technology, waiting patiently to be born.