Recently I watched Dr. Richard Dawkin’s 1987 TV Show “The Blind Watchmaker” which is based on his bestseller with the same name. In it, he speaks of a program he wrote to simulate what would happen if a character set is made to rearrange at random or use the principle of natural selection in order to finally form the Shakespearean phrase “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” from Hamlet.
I obtained the C++ source code of the program from here and ran it. It demonstrates nicely how something can evolve by natural selection. Even though the biological evolution doesn’t know what is going to happen in future as compared to the program, it does try to predict the survival strategy of the the living creature in question and propagate the genes suitable for such a strategy. He further went on demonstrating the same using a graphical program with advanced features.
I recall an incident that occurred few years back. My college was founded in 2002 and mine was the first batch and hence we didn’t have any seniors. But the following year, we started getting new students and hence juniors. There were many of us who tried to rag them but the management was strict about its anti-ragging policies and ragging in the college remained a fun activity than anything serious.
When the third batch came, the story repeated. However the new principal who had taken charge very recently came to our class one day and said:
“I know you will be interested to know your juniors and get acquainted with them and I appreciate that. But I don’t appreciate the way you have chosen to do that. If you look at history, there has always been two processes of development. One is a rapid advancement of a concept to bring forth notable changes within a short span of time. Such a change is called ‘revolution’. There is another way of development which is a very slow and gradual improvement on existing concepts that bring forth lasting changes over a period of time and that is called ‘evolution’. I suggest you follow the evolutionary way of getting acquainted with the new students.” Evolutionary way!
It is a proven fact that given sufficient time, species change to ensure that their genes survive in the changing environment. A recent article in Nature says that in every generation of humans, there are at least 100 to 200 mutations happening in the genes. Hence we may also evolve into a new species in another few thousand or million years. But I must add that along with biological evolution, human intellect has evolved too. We see rapid advancements in fields of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. Also we see human cloning as one of the emerging fields. We humans have become capable of artificial selection!
Let’s pause and think where this is leading us.
I recall my friend saying: “Our generation is the one that struggles the most. In the past, there was very little to study and you could get any job after your 10th grade. In future, advancement in brain chips will make learning obsolete by creating babies who already possess, at the time of birth, all the necessary information for its survival on the planet!“
I admire him for this accurate prediction because it was not based on intuition but on real facts that we see around. Indeed that’s what is going to happen. We will surpass the pace of evolution and start producing a new breed of humans who will be far superior to us in all aspects. If as mentioned in the opening paragraph, a simple program can be made to follow the process of selection, we may even create an artificial evolutionary process by which machines can evolve and finally make the human nature survive through those machines long after the human race has vanished!
The title of the post, “E vs R” as you might have rightly guessed is “Evolution vs Revolution“. The future will be a combination of both. We will revolutionize by conquering and controlling evolution! We won’t be left behind in the struggle for existence. There won’t be any more “the fittest will survive” motto since everybody will be equally fit and we shall all survive together.
Now whether this equality that we try to bring about is in the interest of our existence or not is something we need to wait and find out.