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Why evolution can never get any smarter


Return to product information A friend writes to raise the question of Basener’s ceiling: From Robert Marks II at ENV:

We show that no meaningful information can arise from an evolutionary process unless that process is guided. Even when guided, the degree of evolution’s accomplishment is limited by the expertise of the guiding information source — a limit we call Basener’s ceiling. An evolutionary program whose goal is to master chess will never evolve further and offer investment advice. More.

William Basener is an artificial intelligence expert.

Our friend writes “Complexity in evolutionary algorithms always stops at a certain point and never gets any better, which is predicted by Basener’s ceiling. He also notes that biological evolution seems to have no problem continuously generating more complexity, and he’s very curious what the ‘magic’ ingredient of biological evolution is and how he can incorporate it algorithmically. The forum is not very welcoming to this sort of question…

He offers an observation from David Deutsch (quantum physicist):

One thing that always seems to happen with such projects is that, after they achieve their intended aim, if the ‘evolutionary’ program is allowed to run further it produces no further improvements. This is exactly what would happen if all the knowledge in the successful robot had actually come from the programmer […]

That is why I doubt that any ‘artificial evolution’ has ever created knowledge. I have the same view, for the same reasons, about the slightly different kind of ‘artificial evolution’ that tries to evolve simulated organisms in a virtual environment, and the kind that pits different virtual species against each other.

By the way, have a look at some of the comments to our earlier story on this book: “Is evolutionary informatics a deathstar for Darwinism?” Like this one. From someone who has not indicated that he has read the book.

We feel we deserve better Darwinists! Do readers agree?

One can understand Darwin’s crowd being unhappy that things have not worked out the way they had hoped. One hoped they would concede with more grace. Maybe lower themselves to read a book.


What if natural selection forms a changing landscape that assists the evolutionary path on every step from bacteria to man?
In search, complexity can’t be achieved beyond the expertise of the guiding oracle. As noted, we refer to this limit as Basener’s ceiling.24 However, if the fitness continues to change, it is argued, the evolved entity can achieve greater and greater specified complexity and ultimately perform arbitrarily great acts like writing insightful scholarly books disproving Darwinian evolution. We analyze exactly this case in Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics and dub the overall search structure 'stair step active information'. Not only is guidance required on each stair, but the next step must be carefully chosen to guide the process to the higher fitness landscape and therefore ever increasing complexity. Most of the next possible choices are deleterious and lead to search deterioration and even extinction. This also applies in the limit when the stairs become teeny and the stair case is better described as a ramp. As Aristotle said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Here’s an anecdotal illustration of the careful design needed in the stair step model. If a meteor hits the Yucatan Peninsula and wipes out all the dinosaurs and allows mammals to start domination of the earth, then the meteor’s explosion must be a Goldilocks event. If too strong all life on earth would be zapped. If too weak, velociraptors would still be munching on stegosaurus eggs. Such fine tuning is the case of any fortuitous shift in fitness landscapes and increases, not decreases, the difficulty of evolution of ever-increasing specified complexity. It supports the case there exists no model successfully describing undirected Darwinian evolution. [Robert J. Marks II]
Dionisio @10 J-Mac @9, Please, can you elaborate on your comment? Thanks. This should suffice for now: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/neuroscience/neuroscientist-consciousness-is-theology-not-neurology/#comment-633993 J-Mac
One of the basic issues for Darwin's fans to resolve is the fundamental evo-devo problem described @1090 within the thread "A third way of evolution?" That's a relatively simple problem to resolve theoretically. Why is it taking so long for them to figure it out? Perhaps because it's complex complexity? Dionisio
J-Mac @9, Please, can you elaborate on your comment? Thanks. Dionisio
The “conservation of information” in the mathematical model seems to me just like a drop in a bucket of problems evolution faces in comparison to quantum mechanics model, such as quantum information conservation or maybe even the constant creative power of dark energy for example... J-Mac
There is still no AI writing AI. EricMH
BTW, since this thread may attract the fans of AI, can someone answer the related questions posted in the following link? https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/religion/are-atheists-generally-smarter-than-religious-people/#comment-633698 Thanks in advance. :) Dionisio
The term AI may not be accurate, since the term 'intelligence' still seems a little controversial. Or are we settled on this? Dionisio
Some may use the term 'evolution' when referring to the technological progress of AI. The same can be seen with regard to cars, airplanes, appliances, etc. That's fine. AI is to remain a very useful tool for performing complex or repetitive or dangerous tasks while the human creators of AI continue improving the efficiency of such AI tools. AI development is directed by the human creators of AI. AI does not have human feelings or emotions. Never will. AI has no consciousness. Never will. Dionisio
"The central goal of evolutionary developmental biology is to understand how evolutionary modification of developmental processes leads to morphological or physiological differences between populations, species and higher taxa." http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/1713/20150480 New genes from old: asymmetric divergence of gene duplicates and the evolution of development Peter W. H. Holland, Ferdinand Marlétaz, Ignacio Maeso, Thomas L. Dunwell, Jordi Paps DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0480 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences Dionisio
#1 addendum The evo-devo folks seem to struggle trying to satisfy their own conditions described @1090 in the thread "A third way of evolution?" "Evo-devo in the genomics era, and the origins of morphological diversity" http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/1713 Anything besides microevolution? Poor things... :) Dionisio
#1 addendum "A long-standing question is whether evolution is based on changes in a few genes that have a large effect or on a combination of changes in many genes that each has a small effect." http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/372/1713/20150473#sec-7 Perspectives on the history of evo-devo and the contemporary research landscape in the genomics era Cheryll Tickle, Araxi O. Urrutia DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0473 Dionisio
The eco-devo folks keep trying hard, but so far their progress doesn't seem to answer the most fundamental question: "where's the beef?" :) Dionisio

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