Evolution is a structure of organized change. But it is more.
Evolution is a structure of organized change which is itself undergoing
change and reorganization.
Evolution on Earth has already undergone structural changes in its
four-billion-year lifespan and will probably undergo more. The evolution
of evolution can be summed up by the following series of historical
1) Auto-genesis of systems
3) Genetic control
4) Somatic plasticity
5) Memetic culture
6) Self-directed evolution.
In the prebiotic conditions of early Earth, before there was any life to
evolve, the dynamics of evolution favored the survival of anything
stable. (There is a Uroboric tautology lurking here because in the very
beginning stability is survival.)
evolution to operate longer, and so stability allowed evolution to
generate further stability. We know from the work of Walter Fontana and
Stuart Kauffman (see chapter 20) that a fairly straightforward chemistry
of simple compounds which can catalyze their own production results in a
kind of chemical self-supporting ring. The first stage of evolution was
thus the evolution of a matrix of self-generating complexity, which gave
evolution a population of persistent things to work on.
At the next stage, evolution evolved self-replicating stabilities. Self-
reproduction provided the possibility of errors and variation. Evolution
then evolved natural selection and unleashed its remarkable search
Next, the mechanics of inheritance split from mechanics of survival, and
evolution evolved the dual system of genotype and phenotype. By allowing
a compact genotype to describe huge libraries of possible forms,
evolution entered into a vast space to operate within.
As evolution evolved more complex body forms and behaviors, it made
bodies that reshaped themselves and animals that chose their own niches.
These choices opened up the space of bodily "learning" for evolution to
Learning hastened the next step which was the evolution of a complex
symbolic learning machine -- the human brain. Human thinking evolved
culture and memetic (idea) evolution. Evolution could now accelerate
itself in a self-aware and "smarter" way through a vast new library of
possibilities. This is the stage of history we are at now.
God only knows where evolution may evolve next. Will human-made
artificial evolution set the stage for another realm of evolution? The
obvious course that evolution seems bound to hit sooner or later is
self-direction. In self-direction, evolution itself chooses where it
wants to evolve. This is not discussed by biologists.
I prefer to rephrase this history and say that evolution has been, and
will keep on, exploring the space of possible evolutions. Just as there
is a space of possible pictures, a space of possible biological forms,
and a space of possible computations, there is also a space -- how large we
don't know -- of ways to explore spaces. This metaevolution, or
hyperevolution, or deep evolution, or perhaps even ultimate evolution,
wanders the landscape of all possible evolutionary games looking for the
trick that will allow it to complete its search of all possible
Organisms, memes, biomes -- the whole ball of wax -- are only evolution's way
to keep evolving. What evolution really wants -- that is, where it is
headed -- is to uncover (or create) a mechanism that will most quickly
uncover (or create) possible forms, things, ideas, processes in the
universe. Its ultimate goal is not only to create forms, things, and
ideas, but to create new ways in which new things are found or created.
Hyperevolution does this by bootstrapping itself into a layered strategy
that continually increases its reach, continually creates new libraries
of possible places to explore, and continually searches for better, more
creative ways to create.
That sounds like fiddle-faddle double-talk, but I don't know any less
recursive way to say it. Perhaps: Evolution's job is to create all
possible possibilities by creating the spaces in which they could