Musings on Everything

I muse, therefore I write.

On Evolution



So I found this awesome little flash app that uses an algorithm based on evolution to create a little car that is then made to navigate an obstacle course. Its evolutionary “fitness,” so to speak, is measured by how fast it’s going, whether the little red circles touch the ground, and some other factors, which I haven’t figured out yet. Every 20 iterations, it crosses the most successful iterations out of the 20, mutates, and tries again. Quite the timewaster, considering the computer takes care of everything itself. It’s but one of many things I’ve noticed popping up lately regarding evolution. Another article caught my attention as well. It’s about a man trying to use evolution to create a CPU. Both these articles got me thinking: How close are we, really, to being able to replicate the evolution of a species, or even create a new one altogether. Sure, there’s been some research into making new types of bacteria, and there are plenty of man-made species as it is, but I’m talking about something much more complicated. A new type of fish, or perhaps a mammal more suited to man than even the dog. 

Which, then, brings to mind the question, “Is it even possible?” Is it possible to replicate or model the evolution of a species that has had millions of years to get itself to where it is today? I mean, think about it for a second: Will it ever be possible to plug in the conditions of Earth as it was billions of years ago, run a simulation, and end up with our planet as it is today? If it didn’t come out that one or other of our present species, say tigers, what would fill that ecological gap? How would it look like? The theoretical questions themselves become endless. 

Or what if, back in the primordial soup, there emerged a bacterium based not on carbon, but on silicon? Would we get the Transformers, as  many geeks the world over fervently hope? Probably not. But what would we get? Silicon is conductive of electricity, and doubtless there will be some species that would evolve to take advantage of that. How would that work? Would it have a nervous system made up of transistors or something? Maybe. Perhaps the organism will use electricity as an energy source. Organic batteries of some sort would work nicely for that. The possibilities are endless. Maybe they would evolve a brain that works like a computer, organizing themselves into circuits like in the article above. Carbon lifeforms could do that as well. What if we had evolved like that? Would we be building people, so to speak, that could imagine and discover and dream, those things that computers cannot do? Maybe.

Where do you say we will be in the next five hundred years? Will humanity have computers of metal and plastic, or computers of carbon and organics?


Written by Sri

December 10, 2008 at 10:12 PM

Posted in Musings

One Response

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  1. Crude philistine. :P

    Go read up about evolutionary dynamics and Martin Nowak and maybe some Venter.

    Also, “Silane, SiH4, is a pyrophoric gas with a similar tetrahedral structure to methane, CH4. Additionally there is a range of silicon hydrides that form a homologous series of compounds, SinH2n+2 where n = 2-8 (analogous to the alkanes). These are all readily hydrolyzed and are thermally unstable, particularly the heavier members.”

    But stuff like that make physicists ponder the implications of alternate universes where chemical properties are just slightly altered.


    December 10, 2008 at 10:25 PM

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