Perhaps Not Such Science Fiction, The Internet Could Out-Evolve Humanity

Perhaps Not Such Science Fiction, The Internet Could Out-Evolve Humanity

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The Conversation

Michael Gillings; Darrell Kemp, and Martin Hilbert, University of California, Davis

Living things accumulate and reproduce information. That’s really the driving principle behind life, and behind evolution.

But humans have invented a new method of accumulating and reproducing information. It’s digital information, and it’s growing at an astonishing speed. The number of people using the internet is growing, as are the devices connected to it through the Internet of Things.

Digital information can copy itself perfectly, increases in copy number with every download or view, can be modified (mutated), or combined to generate novel information packets. And it can be expressed through artificial intelligence. These are characteristics similar to living things. So we should probably start thinking about digital technology as being like an organism that can evolve.

Digital information replicates with virtually no energy costs, and has rapid generation times. Artificial intelligence can beat us in chess and on game shows. What’s more, it’s faster than us, smarter than us in some arenas, and is already in charge of activities that are too complex for us to do efficiently.

To biologists, that sounds like the digital world might be able to out-compete us, as we argue in a paper published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Information growth

Any newly evolving entity can cause upheavals for life on Earth. In fact, all the major evolutionary transitions in the history of life have come about via changes to information storage and transmission.

And the digital revolution has certainly changed the way information is stored and transmitted.

The current storage capacity of the internet is approaching 1024 bytes and is growing at 30% to 40% per year, showing no signs of slowing down.

In the 3.7 billion years since life began, information in living things (DNA) has reached the equivalent of about 1037 bytes. Digital information will grow to this size in 100 years. That’s an evolutionary eye-blink.

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One Comment;

  1. jesse stafford said:

    Every supposition leave out the unique attributes of the human species. These attributes are choice, chance, and uncertainity. These are the primary facets of this universe. Because it is impossible to predict what will occurr from moment to moment because of cascading factors that may have been set in motion billions of years in galaxies that are now far away. I think AI will always need humanity and if worse come to worse I believe AI will abandon or ignore humanity. After all humanity is a complex mess.