The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Complexity, Specialization and Cooperation

The British biologist John Maynard-Smith and the Hungarian biologist Eors Szathmary argued that each major transition in evolution turned  biological units that were capable of independent replication  into biological units that needed other biological units in order to replicate. In other words, each “major transition” seems to produce (or be produced by) cooperation. For example, independently replicating nucleid acids evolved into chromosomes (assemblies of molecules that must replicate together). Also, sexless life was replaced by species that have male and female members, and that can replicate only if a male and a female “cooperate”.  Ants and bees can only replicate in colonies.

In these major transitions, sets of identical biological units were replaced by sets of specialized units that needed to cooperate in order to survive and replicate.

This also opens a window on the history of socialization, or cooperative behavior. Far from being a recent invention, socialization arose when specialization arose. Originally, one can envision a world of multifunctional self-sufficient biological entities. When these evolved into specialized entities, the need for them to socialize was born. Division of labor among a group of specialists is more effective than a multifunctional non-specialist but only if the specialists cooperate. And thus the multifunctional cell led to cellular organization and eventually to bodies with specialized limbs and organs that eventually led to societies of specialists  (ants, bees, humans).  Altruism, or at least division of labor and cooperation, appeared very early in the history of life, as soon as molecules were enclosed within membranes.

After all, cooperation was inherent in Mendel’s laws: a gene’s chances of surviving in future generations depends on the success of the cell that hosts that gene, a success that depends on the success of all the other genes that determine the life of that cell. Hence a gene has a vested interest in “cooperating” with the other genes. The cell would not survive if its genes did not form an efficient society.


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