RE: Book Review -- Darwin Among the machines

Lisa Dusseault (
Tue, 9 Jun 1998 09:22:31 -0700

I said:

>The problem of the major premise (evolution causing artificial
>intelligence), as I see it, is that selection pressure doesn't necessarily
>mean selection for intelligence. We like to believe, as humans, that
>intelligence is the pinnacle of evolution and therefore the primary goal,
>but it doesn't seem to be true: "survival" can be due to many other
>besides intelligence. Selective pressure is applied to computers and
>networks to make them more useful to us, not more intelligent.

Mark said:

"Tell ya what Lisa. You bring me a living non-organic machine, and then
we'll chat about how intelligent it is. Deal? 8-)
"I thought Dyson was speaking more on artificial *life*, not artificial
intelligence per se."

True, Dyson was speaking of both life and intelligence. I seem to remember
he defined life as self-repairing, self-maintaining organisms. A single
computer doesn't count because it can break down and never be repaired. The
waters got quite muddied when Dyson started talking about whether humans
could be considered symbionts together with computers: the suggestion that
the internet and its human symbionts, in particular, is a self-repairing
self-maintaining system. If you define life so loosely that humans can be
considered symbionts for computer networks, with humans replicating
themselves and human/computer interaction replicating parts of the network
which break down, then we've already created life. So, how intelligent is
it? And if it doesn't count as life, then what is your definition of life?

Did you feel that Dyson kind of prodded at most of these issues and then
walked around them to other issues without plowing through the detail,
ramifications, justification and counter-claims? It's fun to think of cool
ideas like group organisms, group intelligence, and whether humans are
symbionts for computers, but now I want more in-depth analysis. Can anybody
recommend books which provide that analysis?

BTW, for in-depth analysis of why evolution does not lead inexorably towards
a pinnacle of intelligence or complexity, read Full House by Steven Jay
Gould. A great book, already on the FoRK list.

I'm now reading a book on a different evolution-related topic: evolution of
and conflict between human societies. It's called "Guns, Germs, and Steel",
by Jared Diamond, and was recommended and loaned to me. I'll try to
describe it and make a recommendation or non-recommendation when I'm done.

And George, if you're ego-surfing, then hi! And thanks for writing the
book, it's certainly worthwhile raising all the issues and questions and
ideas that you raised.