Technological Singularity

Patrick Juola patrick at gryphon.psych.ox.ac.uk
Fri Jun 5 12:18:24 EST 1998

In article <897063854.14638.0.nnrp-05.c2d9a433 at news.demon.co.uk> "James Sharman" <james at exaflop.demon.co.uk> writes:
>Untrue,  natural selection favours that which is more likely to survive,  my
>definition of better in this case is also 'those who are more likely to
>survive'.  There are many example in the animal kingdom where more does not
>equate to a greater ability for overall survival.  In any case,  natural
>selection is by nature competitive,  many types of animal have died out who
>would still be alive today if they had not needed to compete for resources
>with another animal that fitted into a similar ecological neiche.
>If the environment in which a group of animals live remains unchanged then
>eventually the animals (including any intelligent animals) will stop
>evolving after settling into a number of different roles.

This isn't actually true; there's a lot of stuff studied about
genetic drift and similar methods of evolution that don't result
from direct selection pressure.

But anyway....

>What is being discussed here is the results of introducing a race of
>genetically engineered super humans into the mix. We are not talking about
>an entirely new race just a bred that is in some manner better than your
>every day human (intelligence, strength, attractiveness or a combination of
>these). Clearly natural selection will be very complex since we are not a
>bunch of animals on an African plain killing each other or hunting, however
>our complex structure rather than reducing the types of resources for which
>we must compete actually increases them.
>1) You (being an ordinary human) go to a job interview, you think you have
>done well only to discover that the job was taken by a superman with an IQ
>of 400.
>2) You plan to go to a party but you get a cold and dont feel up to it. A
>superman doesn't get the cold because of his enhanced immune system and so
>he goes to the party and meets the girl you would have met.
>3) Your in a head on collision in your car with a car driven by a superman,
>you both have similar injuries but you die and he lives because his enhanced
>metabolism keeps him alive the crucial extra minutes on the trip to
>I could go on with examples forever.

You probably could.  However, these sorts of examples, particularly
out of context, really don't mean much and don't convince.  Only one
of them, for example, directly addresses reproductive fitness -- and
you're making the assumption that the girl that you met at the party
is there with the intention of getting laid by any man she happens
to meet at the party.

One of the things that we know about the social aspects of human
reproduction is the principle of "assortative mating," which is
a pretentious way of saying "like goes out with like" or "birds
of a feather flock to blokes of the same feather."  Most marriages --
and particularly most successful marriages -- tend to happen, for
instance, between men and women of approximately similar IQs and
socioeconomic classes.  There are considerably fewer -- although
exceptions of course exist -- marriages between genius-level women
and dumb-as-a-brick men (or vice versa).  So a slightly more
sophisticated analysis might suggest that, although the 400+ IQ
Superman might well be able to get the job that you wanted, he's unlikely
to score with Lois Lane, which makes his 400+ IQ a net *NEGATIVE*
in terms of selection pressure.

Similarly, I'm not sure that the mere fact that car accidents are more
survivable directly equates to a survival advantage in car accidents;
we've got lots of data suggesting that as cars get safer, people drive
more carelessly.  It's not unreasonable to believe that Superman is
likely to be a worse driver than the rest of us and get into more
car crashes.

Even in the event that he's also got super common sense, there's
still the minor problem that success in other areas does *NOT*
correspond to reproductive success.  I've already suggested that
he's unlikely to be able to pull Lois.  But he's not only got to
pull Lois (away from me; pulling Wonder Woman away from Aquaman
wouldn't mean much, genetically), but he's got to be able to have more
(surviving, successful) children than I do.  Given how I feel about
my current job, I'd be delighted if he were fool enough to take it
away from me, giving me N months of unemployment insurance and
a chance to spend time with my SO....


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