Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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Stages of Evolution

  • We think of "life" as one well-defined process, but it can be many different things depending on how one defines it.
  • If one defines it as "the process by which genetic information is transmitted from one generation to the next", then there have been different forms of life on this planet.
  • We don't really know much about the transmission of information before the origin of life itself. We do know that significant changes took place from the first eukaryotic cells to sexual beings (that cannot just reproduce individually but need a partner) and then to multicellular organisms (whose survival and reproduction depends on the collaboration of many living cells) and then to tool-creating beings (that alter the environment for the next generation) and then to societies (which involve the use of some communication system in order to cooperate and which reward cooperation, i.e. altruism, over competition). Note that "obsolete" forms of life continue to exist even as life progresses (e.g., there are still plenty of bacteria in the world).
  • The trend has been towards a less "selfish" gene and towards tighter cooperation. Tools have been overlooked in this process, but they actually represent a way to help the survival and reproduction of future generations.
  • Digital technology is creating a new stage in life, in which the living being needs to cooperate with an environment that has been created not in the past but in the present.
  • Digital tools don't change the environment the way a bridge or a car do. They mostly change our behavior towards each other.
  • Humans armed with digital devices represent a new stage in life. Living beings have progressively become less and less able to survive and reproduce alone, more and more part of a larger whole that either succeeds or fails as a whole.