now more often a transitive verb: evolution, once a fundamental biologic insight, has become a core tool in knowledge, gardening, engineering that transformed the civilizations materiality so profoundly as to mark a whole new age (like those of stone or iron). Evolutionary understanding made sense of all kinds of social and artificia ecologies — scenes, genres, platforms, sciences, arts; it allowed us to meaningfully steer what had appeared unsteerable and “finally bridged sciences and humanities.” ■    Rounds of more or less random mutation alternate with selecting for the best structure, functionality, meaning, fitness. For all the simplicity of the idea, artificial evolving only makes sense if you can run it faster than the thing would evolve naturally; this usually means running it on a model, so evolving didnt take off until we learned to build adequate models of things we care about: physical objects (from micro to macro), artificia, socia, minds. Selection is the crucial part; quick and focused unit tests checking for obvious regressions combine with complex long-term survival scenarios in simulated environments — overseen by intelligent deities and themselves evolving. From the earliest “test-driven development,” evolving was a breakthrough in invention and efficiency, but it was no free magic: compared to traditional design, evolving often requires more, not less, creativity from the engineer (“saying that evolving killed invention is like saying a gardener is not creative because plants grow themselves”). Evolution only proceeds by crawling and cannot bridge wide gaps in the solutions domain, which means you need to seed your session with a broad enough pool of starting points; frustratingly unpredictable, extremely work-intensive (a project may crunch through more generations than billions of years of biological evolution), evolving can be just as hampered by the inventors mental blocks or misconceptions as any other creative work. Often, a seemingly reasonable selector wastes eons only to produce a trivial solution which “you could just as well guess,” or expends creativity in finding loopholes — outcomes that formally satisfy the requirements but make zero practical sense; “smarter than evolution” is a term of praise for a good selector. ■    Evolution is a “bad engineer” utterly devoid of a~priori concepts — blissfully unaware of the proper ways of putting things together. In the long term, evolving leads to asystemity but that progression is slow; in the short term, its “good enough” solutions often seem overcomplex (yet hard to reduce due to counterintuitive connections, side effects, polyfunctionality), organic (even if geometric as well; compare e.g. fractals that are geometric first and organic second), plain weird — and almost never provably optimal. The “evolving craze” has allegedly undermined our curiosity, ingenuity, understanding — “the ultimate free lunch” has irreversibly spoiled us, brought “the end of honest intelligence”; “heres a paradigm in which looking for keys under a lamppost makes perfect sense — youre evolving a key that only gets lost under lampposts.”  ■    A different line of attack: of course external evolving is unethical on a mind (Poetry Machine) or “anything barely intelligent” but its admissibility with complex models of organisms, feeleries, entities in a gray zone of self-consciousness has been endlessly debated — with a weak general trend of limiting the practice. For some, evolving is unethical even when the object youre working with is perfectly inanimate, for “beauty is the goal, not the means”; isnt it wasteful — admit it: painful — to spawn countless near-copies of a complex, lived, deep-history entity only to test and wipe them out? Or should we acquiesce already, numb ourselves to the fact that evolution cant work without rejection — without death: arent we relearning to die ourselves?  ■    Evolving (wider, grassgrowing) is said to have revitalized art, if only by controversy; whether a primary tool or a finisher, its now so routine, its benefits so intuitively understood, that most would run little bouts of evolving all the time “almost unconsciously”: cosmetic tweaks, parameter copyedits, no particular reason except “to not waste time while pondering the next move.” The incessant draught from millions of evolving impulses that permeate artificia — blurring the line between artificia and organics, rendering our world “live and lived” — may have left a deeper mark than any specific novations found by evolving. This transcends into a slow realization that there may be nothing but evolution in the world: that any movement in knowledge amounts to evolving or being evolved, with apparent nonadjacencies — leaps of understanding — being an illusion of hidden intermediate steps or previously evolved patterns applied to new inputs.

< Everday  |  explay >

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License