Saturday, 29 August 2015

Thirteen #tweets on #evolution

Avant propose:  These very abstract statements summarize the processes that shaped and continue to shape the evolution of planet Earth, human cultures included. When the specific physical, chemical, biological and cultural processes are liberated from their respective details their common features come evident. These tweets aim to show the common thread of the simple processes that describe planetary evolution, which already have been researched to a fair stage [*]. 

1. The story of Planet Earth: the evolution of the geosphere, biosphere, and now the noosphere. Currently, the planetary evolution, driven by the human species and their noosphere, is heading towards the Anthropocene with an open outcome; climax or anticlimax depending on the cultural-evolution of societies of the human species. 
2. The science of evolution: a philosophical insight and a story about the development from stardust to social networks. Evolution has a much wider scope than describing 'survival of species'. Evolution is more than weeding out 'the least fit' for an environment with limited resources. Evolution is an iterative process to assemble and replicate increasingly complex structures. The key feature of biological evolution is self-replication, thus reproduction. Competition is for efficient processing of energy, matter and information to support reproduction.
3. Self-assembling: simple components aggregate to more complex structures. The aggregation of the components is spontaneous with in the respective environment. It happens without any other external driver. These "aggregated components" show new characteristics, which are more than the sum of the characteristics of their components. Getting their turn, these "aggregated components" spontaneously aggregate again; and so on.
4. Replication: copying an original structure. Replication is about, at least, to keep a copy of the initial structure while the original structure has broken apart. Replication is achieved, if that process has come through before the "to be replicated" structure starts to break up. Thus, the replication process is competitive. An efficient replication process multiplies the original structure before it breaks up. A replication may not be entirely faithful but approximate only and, so, leads to variants of the original structure.
5. Self-replication: structures replicate themselves. A self-replicating structure is understood as "living". The self-replicating process is called reproduction. An approximately self-replicating structure is changing its features, and that is what biological evolution is about.
6. Reproduction - boundaries: self-replication confined to an enclosed space. “Stuff” outside a closed boundary is excluded from the replication; that's self-replication. Boundaries limit the “self-replicating structure” and its “environment”. Excluding structures outside a limiting boundary from a replication process turns that replication process into a reproduction process. Reproduction is about reading and applying information for the purpose to replicate a “limited structure” before it breaks up. Thus, reproduction is about processing a limited set of information in a race against time.
7. Reproduction - targets: First, to timely access resources outside the limits of the structure that is reproducing itself. These resources are energy and matter. Second, to appropriately transfer these resources into the structure that is to reproduce. Third, use these resources for reproduction; thus building a new structure with its proper outer boundary. For successful reproduction, these three targets have to be met before the 'to be replicated' structure breaks up.
8. Reproduction - fitness: modest reproduction efficiency. Namely that, within a limited elapse of time and for the purpose to self-replicate, a limited structure transports matter as well as energy and processes information. Evolution happens if the self-replication is not faithful. Reproduction errors occur and variations of the original structure form with varying efficiency. The least fit variants do not replicate before they break-up, so they “die” and other survive.
9. Living beings - All: evolution initially targeted the efficiency of the processes for transport of matter and use of energy within the "limited structures" and across their outer boundaries. Eventually, evolution focused on the efficiency of the processes that handle sensor inputs, processing information and supporting communication between "self-replicating structures" of the same kind.
10. Living beings – humans: A "self-replicating limited structure". Humans, to improve its reproductive fitness, are specialising in intra-species communication and scenario building. Both is supported by a massively expanded capacity (the mind-brain-organ) for processing information. The individual "self-replicating limited structure" aggregate in groups with strong internal bonds to compete with other groups for efficient processing of energy, matter and information.
11. Noosphere - Society: Many groups of “self-replicating limited structures" interact to process information for the purpose to improve the efficiency of the handling of matter and energy in support of their "self-replication".
12. Noosphere - Culture: Designed external environment of the “self-replicating limited structures” purposefully set up to handle matter and energy in support of the “self-replication” of these structures.
13. On the way: Much has happened since stars lighted up fusing the matter that makes our bodies. Much has happened before mind-culture systems, societies, developed along the path of evolution. Now, the number of human beings and their manner of reproduction are such that we squeeze the biosphere of planet Earth. The combined strength of humans is sufficient to shape the geosphere of planet Earth. Thus, we are starting the Anthropocene. Unhappily currently humans behave like an invasive species, showing little control of a sustainable resource consumption.

[*] some references:
Baje Todd J. and Jon M. Erlandson 2013, Looking forward, looking backward: Humans, anthropogenic change, and the Anthropocene, Anthropocene 4, pp.116-121.
Bonneuil Christophe and Fressoz Jean-Baptiste 2013, L'événement Anthropocène - La terre, l'histoire et nous, Le Seuil p. 271.
Hazen Robert M. 2012, The Story of Earth, Viking Pinguin, p. 306 .
Langmuir Charles H. and Wally Broecker 2012, How to build a habitable planet, Princeton University Press, p. 718.
Landes 2003, The Unbound Prometheus – Technological change and industrial development in Western Europe from 1750 to the present (second edition), Cambridge University Press, p. 576.
Lieberman Matthew D. 2013, Social – Why our brains are wired to connect, Oxford University Press, p. 374 .
Pagel Mark 2012, Wired for Culture. Origins of the Human Social Mind, W.W. Norton & Company New York, p. 423.
Schwägerl Christian 2014, The Anthropocene – The human era and how it shapes our planet, Synergetic Press 2014,p. 235.
Wilson Edward O. 2014, The Meaning of Human Existence, W.W. Norton & Company New York, p.207.

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