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
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
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
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
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.