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Out of Control
Chapter 21: RISING FLOW

A summary of evolution's evolution may be hypothesized as follows. In the beginning, evolution started as varying self-replication that produced enough of a population to induce natural selection. Once populations bubbled up, directed mutation became important. Next symbiosis became a major mover and shaker feeding off the change produced by natural selection. As forms grew larger, the constraints of form set in. As genomes grew in length, internal selection began to rule the genome. With the cohesion of the gene, speciation and species level selection kicked in. With organisms of sufficient complexity, behavioral and somatic evolution emerged. Eventually, when intelligence came on the scene, Lamarckian cultural evolution took over. As we humans introduce genetic engineering and self-programming robots, the makeup of evolution on Earth will continue to evolve.

The history of life, then, is a progression through a variety of evolutions brought about by the expanding complexity of life. As life becomes more hierarchical -- genes, cells, organisms, species -- evolution shifts its work. Yale University biologist Leo Buss claims that in each stage of evolution's evolution the unit subjected to natural selection shifts the tangled hierarchy to a new level of selection. Buss writes, "The history of life is a history of different units of selection." Natural selection selects individuals; Buss says that what constitutes an individual evolves over time. As an example, billions of years ago cells were the unit of natural selection, but eventually cells banded together and natural selection shifted to selecting their group -- a multicellular organism -- as the individual to select upon. One way to look at this is to say what constitutes an evolutionary individual evolves. At first an individual was a stable system, then a molecule, then a cell, then an organism. What next? Ever since Darwin, many imaginative evolutionists have proposed "group selection," evolution that works on groups of species as if a species were an individual. Certain kinds of species would survive or die not because of the survivability of the organism but because of unknown qualities of its specieshood -- perhaps its evolvability.

Group selection is still a controversial idea but no less controversial than Buss's larger conclusion that "the major features of evolution were shaped during periods of transition between units of selection." Thus, he says, "At each transition -- at each stage in the history of life in which a new self-replicating unit arose -- the rules regarding the operation of natural selection changed utterly." In brief, natural evolution evolves.

Artificial evolution will likewise evolve, both artificially and naturally. We will engineer it to accomplish certain jobs, and we'll breed many species of artificial evolution to do particular jobs better. Many years hence, you'll be able to select a particular brand of artificial evolution out of a catalog to get just that right amount of novelty, or the perfect touch of self-guidance. But artificial evolution will also evolve with a certain bias that it shares with all evolutionary systems. Each variety will, for certain, remain out of our exclusive control and carry its own agenda.

If there truly are varieties of artificial evolution and a mixture of subevolutions themselves evolving within that thing we call evolution, then what are the characteristics of this larger evolution, this change of change? What are the traits of hyperevolution -- both the general class of evolutions, and the greater evolution that moves through them -- and where is it headed? What does evolution want?

I tally the evidence and say that evolution moves towards itself.

The process of evolution gathers itself up ceaselessly and remakes itself over and over again in time. With every remaking, evolution becomes a process more able to alter itself. It is thus "source and fruition at once."

The mathematics of evolution is not driving it toward more flamingos, more dandelions, or more of any particular entity. Fecundity is a free by-product of evolution -- here, have a few million frogs -- rather than a goal. Instead evolution moves in the direction of actualizing itself.

Life is the substrate for evolution. Life provides the raw material of organisms and species which allows evolution to evolve further. Without a parade of complexifying organisms, evolution cannot evolve more evolvability. So evolution generates complexity and diversity and millions of beings and thereby gives itself room to evolve into a more powerful evolver.

Any self-evolver must be a coyote trickster. The trickster is never satisfied in remaking itself. Every time it takes its tail and turns itself inside out, becoming a thing more convoluted, more flexible, more lobed and frilled, more dependent upon itself, it rests less and less before it grabs its tail again.

What does the universe gain by tolerating this relentless evolution accumulating ever more evolvability?

Possibilities, as far as I can see.

And, possibilities suit me fine as a destination.