Energy, Open-Ended Evolution, and Search.
I was inspired to think about this problem after attended Hofstadter's lecture at AlifeX where he argued that we might see a failure of Moore's Law w.r.t. computing power. The details of the debate can be found here. Hofstadter wanted to know what the timescale was before humans were surpassed by machine technology. Repeatedly Hofstadter makes an analogy between two 'major transitions', the origin of multicellularity, and the movement of life to land, compared to the quantum leap expected when computers take over from humans. These biological events do not map to computers taking over from humans, but rather map to the origin of society, countries etc... and to individual genetic modifications allowing existence in new niches. Perhaps a niche construction metaphor would have been more appropriate. The scenario of computer life taking over from human life is analogous to the takeover of a metabolic system by a virus. This seems a more appropriate biological metaphor for the process that Hofstadter is imagining.
This made me wonder to what extent energy constraints had played a crucial role in the development of technology and how the role of energy in such processes could be appreciated. To what extent does search depend on energy? To what extent is random search cheaper energetically than developing a stratergy for non-random search, i.e. what is the energetic cost of evolution and learning (and development)? I feel it would be useful to write a paper considering the means by which an entity driven by one prime mover is able to discover another prime mover. I wish to consider entities ranging from prebiotic chemicals to bacteria to humans. This investigation will inevitably be a historical and biological piece of work that would require close scholerly examination of the processes involved in the discovery of new prime movers, and the costs of this search!
Basically, I was disappointed with Hofstadter. As I had suspected, he does not take physical systems on the chin, but ducks and dives from them. The contribution that he can make to issues of pre-bioitic chemistry thus seems limited, even through in GEB he claims that the concept of self-referential activity is crucial to life, there is no attempt to map from the formal to the physical. Here I make a start by considering the importance of energy in open-ended evolution. I hope to be able to discover through this investigation how energy and its aquasition constrains search processes! Ultimately I hope to produce a model of this process and extract general laws from this model about all processes of search and the energy constraints to such search processes.
Energy of Speciation
Recently (1) have calculated the energy required for speciation event. This is extremely high, greater than the GPP in one year! I find this difficult to understand on multiple levels. Why is it so high? It is not really fair to say that this is a minimum value required for speciation? Does the paper imply that there is some factor optimizing the energy cost of speciation?
M. Goldstein and Inge F. Goldstein. The Refrigerator and the Universe. 1993.