Saturday, 5 October 2013

Tim Tyler: Observation of the observable

Hi. I'm Tim Tyler, and this is a video about incorporating observers and observations into Darwinism.

Universal Darwinism generalizes many of the principles of evolutionary theory, giving it a broader range of applicability and extending it to cover the inanimate world. One such principle is natural selection. Universal selection applies broadly to the natural world, harvesting asteroids and atoms - as well as ants and aardvarks.

A closely-related concept that can be similarly generalized is "survival of the fittest". Richard Dawkins, writing on page 12 of "The Selfish Gene", wrote:

Darwin's survival of the fittest is really a specific case of a more general law of survival of the stable. The universe is populated by stable things.

This proposed law of "survival of the stable" has subsequently not received proper attention. However it too is a specific case of a more general law, which might be referred to as: "observation of the observable".

Dealing with observability implicitly includes all cases of survival - since, in order to be observed, entities must have survived. However it expands the scope of original idea in two ways - to include:

  • Potential observables being hidden, and...
  • Observers failing to observe fully;

With this modification, Darwinism can be accurately applied to entities which are merely hidden - instead of ones that have failed to survive. This allows evolutionary theory to be applied to cases such as the Tall poppy syndrome - where entites are selected on the basis of their visibility - rather than because their competitors failed to survive.

Survival - from "survival of the fittest" is an important determinant of what we observe, but it is not the only factor involved.

The new principle also incorporates selection effects acting on observers and their perceptual apparatus into evolutionary theory. Such effects have classically been studied in the context of "the anthropic principle". However, the term "anthropic" was always unfortunate - since it implies the effect only applies to humans - whereas, in fact, any observer will do: animals and machines can act as observers too. Universal Darwinism brings observation effects under the umbrella of evolutionary theory. It includes cases where observers are sleepy, deluded, lacking awareness, or have perceptual limits.

Darwinism is the most appropriate framework for modeling the effect of selection on observations and observers. The expansion of Darwinism to deal with "observation of the observable" is long overdue. Previous iterations of the theory have made no mention of observations or observers, but this development puts them back into Darwinism at its heart. To fully explain scientific observations, we have no choice but to use the more general and broadly-applicable principle.


For more on this topic, see: Observation selection classified

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim Tyler,

    In trying to make sense of the reality of genes, biological needs, memes, consciousness, the self, free will and goal setting. I’m puzzled about where to stand in this regard. Do you think that a person’s knowledge in these fields can be incorporated in a cohesive way in his personality? How would a person with this knowledge behave? Once conscious of the forces at play, what change in the person would take place?