EVOLUTION'S ARROW

The direction of evolution and the future of humanity

Previous Chapter ] Contents ] Next Chapter ]

(new) The most recent and refined version of the evolutionary worldview that was first presented in Evolutionís Arrow can be found in the 34 page document The Evolutionary Manifesto which is here

Chapter 6.    The Evolution of Management      

 

An organism that has the ability to control others could use its power to manage a group to establish complex cooperative organisation. It could, but would it? Does evolution favour organisms that use their power over others to promote cooperation between them? How could it be to their evolutionary advantage to use their power in this way?

Or does evolution favour organisms that use their power to take what they want off others? If evolution favours self-interest, will it not favour powerful organisms that plunder resources from others? Why manage, when you can just take? These questions are critically important for deciding whether the potential benefits of cooperation are capable of driving progressive evolution. If evolution cannot produce dominant organisms that use their power to promote cooperation, managed cooperative organisations are unlikely to arise, and evolution will be unable to progressively exploit the benefits of cooperation.

Part of the answer to these questions is found in an old saying: if you give a person a bag of corn you feed him once, but if you teach him how to plant and grow the corn, you feed him for life. In the same way, a powerful organism can either plunder a group of organisms once, or can manage and look after the group so that the powerful organism can harvest benefits from the group for life.

To develop these ideas more fully, we need to return to our generalised example of a population of organisms that are formed into groups. How will the population evolve when a dominant organism that is able to control others arises in the population?

Initially at least, the dominant individuals that would do best would be those that use their power to get the most food, the best opportunities to mate and produce offspring, the safest places to rest at night, and so on. Evolution will favour those that use their power purely for their own benefit, whether or not this has harmful effects on others.

Particularly if groups are able to accumulate food and other resources, evolution is likely to favour dominants that move from group to group, plundering resources as they go. In these circumstances, a dominant would not restrict the amount of resources it takes in order to limit the harm it does to a group. Any dominant that did so would be out-competed by more ruthless individuals.

But, in time, dominants may discover ways of getting other individuals to do useful things for them. They may discover how to use their power to get others to gather food, help defend the group against predators or other plundering dominants, or assist in producing and rearing the dominant’s offspring. Dominants could do this by rewarding those that help them, or by forcing them to do so.

The discovery by dominants of ways to make others useful to them on an on-going basis completely changes the characteristics that evolution will favour in dominants. It changes the evolutionary forces that act on them. The dominants that will do better in evolutionary terms will now be those that stay with a particular group and harvest an on-going stream of benefits from it. Evolutionary success will go to dominants that are best at keeping their group healthy and productive so that it can continue to provide useful benefits. Plundering and moving on becomes a losing strategy.

The success of the dominants will increasingly depend on the success of those that they control. Evolution will favour dominants that are able to extract a stream of benefits from a group of individuals on an on-going basis. As dominants find more and more ways of making others useful to them, dominants will become more dependent on those they control. Increasingly the interests of dominants and the interests of their groups will be aligned. If a dominant harms those under its control, it harms itself. If it helps those under its control to live long and productive lives, it helps itself. The ability of the dominant to extract benefits from the group means that it is able to capture the benefit of anything it does to improve the capacity of the group to produce on-going benefits. A dominant will be as interested in the health and productivity of its group as a farmer is in his crops and animals. The dominants become managers.

It will be in the interests of a manager to keep its group healthy and productive. It will limit what it takes from the group so it does not damage the ability of the group to function and reproduce itself. And it will be in the interests of a manager to exclude other dominants from access to its group. It will do better by having the sole use of the resources and services that can be harvested from the group. So it will protect the group from being plundered by other powerful individuals or bands.

As managers become better at preventing other dominants from using their group, managers become more and more dependent on their group for their own evolutionary success. They will not be able to leave their group and move to another. If they damage their own group, they will not be able to escape the consequences of this by taking over another group.

Eventually, the evolutionary success of a manager will depend totally on its ability to manage the group that it controls. It will have no evolutionary future outside the group it manages. The success of the manager will depend totally on the success of the organisation. The manager will capture all the effects on the organisation of its actions, good and bad, and will therefore treat the organisation as it would treat itself. The self-interested manager will pursue the interests of the organisation as a whole. The group and the manager will form an organisation that is a single, united evolutionary entity.

Once managers develop the ability to extract an on-going stream of benefits from a group, they can also benefit from boosting the productive capacity of the group. And we have seen that the potential for doing this is immense. The productive capacity of a group can be boosted greatly if cooperation is organised within the group. We have seen that the barrier to the evolution of cooperation largely prevents un-managed groups from doing this. But the potential benefits of cooperation can be exploited within managed groups. A powerful manager can support cooperation and control cheating, theft and free riding. And a manager with the power to harvest benefits from a group will be able to profit from anything it does to improve the productivity of the group[1].

We can now see that not only is a manager able to unlock the immense benefits of cooperation, it is in its own evolutionary interests to do so. A manager that increases the productive capacity of its group by supporting cooperation will be able to harvest a greater stream of benefits from the group for its own use. A self-interested manager will therefore control its group to promote cooperation.

To summarise: when individuals that have the ability to control others emerge in a population, they will initially use their power in ways that often damage the interests of others. But once they discover ways to use their power to harvest a stream of benefits from others, it will increasingly be in their interests to protect and nurture a group of individuals that can provide these benefits.

Because dominants can harvest benefits from the group, they will be able to benefit from whatever they can do to increase the productivity of the group. The greatest potential for this lies in managing the group to overcome the barrier to the evolution of cooperation. It will be in the evolutionary interests of managers to make it in the interests of members of the group to cooperate and to serve the interests of the organisation as a whole. The result will be an organisation in which the interests of all, including the manager, are aligned with the interests of the organisation. The organisation will be cooperative even though it is made up of thoroughly self-interested components[2].

The evolution of early cells provides a concrete and specific illustration of this general evolutionary sequence. We begin with an autocatalytic set of proteins. As we have seen, an autocatalytic set can reproduce itself through time because each type of protein in the set helps make other members of the set. The proteins catalyse reactions of smaller organic and inorganic molecules progressively constructing larger and larger molecules, and eventually producing the members of the set.

A flourishing autocatalytic set of proteins would build up a rich soup of component molecules and other chemical processes that are used to produce the members of the set. But there is little to stop other large organic molecules from using this soup of component molecules and processes for their own reproduction. RNA molecules are particularly suited to this. Due to their greater size and stability, they are less able to be damaged by proteins, or to be stopped by proteins from using the components of the set. And they are better able to survive periods spent drifting between autocatalytic sets.

So self-reproducing RNA molecules could do very well by plundering the resources of an autocatalytic set to help their own reproduction, perhaps destroying the set in the process, and then moving on to another set to do the same again[3]. The RNA would have no interest in preserving the sets that it plundered.

As we have seen, this would change once RNA molecules discovered ways to manipulate the reactions within the set to their own advantage. For example, the RNA molecules might use their catalytic ability to boost reactions within the set that helped their own reproduction. The RNA would no longer just be plundering components from the set for its own use. Instead, it would boost reactions within the set that produced these components. So the RNA might boost reactions that produce proteins that help it to replicate more efficiently, or that help it to catalyse other reactions that are useful to it.

In this way, RNA molecules begin to discover ways to make autocatalytic sets useful to themselves on an on-going basis. The RNA begins to have an interest in ensuring that the set is not destroyed so that the set can continue to produce a stream of benefits for the RNA. The RNA will restrain its plundering of the set, and can benefit from a long association with it.

The RNA can further increase the stream of benefits it gets from its set by boosting the productivity of the set. It can do this by using its ability to control the set to overcome the barrier to the evolution of cooperation. As we have seen, the RNA can boost the production of cooperative proteins that make a significant contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the set, but that otherwise would be out-competed within the set. And it can suppress the production of proteins that free ride and cheat[4].

It will increasingly be to the advantage of the RNA to stay permanently with a particular autocatalytic set. This will enable it to harvest though time the benefits of the massive increase in productivity it has produced. And selection will favour RNA that prevents other RNA from plundering the set. The RNA can do this by managing the components of the set so that they cooperate together in ways that resist other RNA. For example, the RNA could manage the set so that the members cooperate together to produce a cell wall, or cooperate together to engulf and digest RNA that attempts to plunder the set.

This evolutionary sequence eventually produced proto cells in which particular RNA molecules lived permanently with a particular autocatalytic set of proteins encased in a cellular membrane or wall. Once proto cells emerged, neither the set nor the RNA molecules could have any life or future outside the proto cell. Their evolutionary success was totally dependent on the evolutionary success of the organisation as a whole.

But this complete alignment of interests between the RNA and the proto cell could break down when there was more than one RNA molecule in the proto cell. This is because the molecules would compete against each other, and the winner would not usually be the one that contributed most to the cell. An RNA molecule would do better if it invested its time and resources in promoting its own reproduction, so that its offspring increased in numbers in the cell and in the next generation of cells. It would out-compete cooperative RNA molecules that instead used their time and resources to boost the productivity of the cell, rather than to promote their own immediate reproduction[5].

This breakdown of cooperation was, of course, another instance of the barrier to the evolution of cooperation. And it could be overcome in the same way as other instances. The RNA molecules had to be controlled so that the only way that they could advance their own interests was by advancing the interests of the organisation as a whole. They had to be prevented from gaining any competitive advantage over other RNA, except where this was because they had contributed more to the cell[6]. Once this was achieved, cells could include many RNA molecules, with each molecule specialised to manage some particular aspect of the chemical and other processes of the cell.

How was destructive competition between RNA prevented within cells? As for the suppression of competition amongst mitochondria, an important development was to prevent RNA moving from one cell to another. This was accomplished in large part by the evolution of a cellular membrane. The membrane physically prevented RNA from plundering the cell and then leaving, and tied their interests to the interests of the cell[7]. A further step in suppressing destructive competition was the joining together of the RNA molecules to form a single chromosome[8]. All the genetic material was bound together, and could not reproduce separately. Any particular RNA molecule was unable to produce more offspring than others. What one molecule did, the others did as well. Ensuring all RNA molecules shared the same reproductive fate prevented competition. They were all in the same boat.

But this did not solve the problem completely. If chromosomes could reproduce freely within the cell, producing a number of chromosomes, competition could resume. The chromosomes could compete with each other within the cell. This was prevented by controls over the reproduction of chromosomes. The controls ensured that a chromosome could reproduce only when the cell reproduced, and that only one copy of the chromosome would go to each daughter cell. So when the cell split into two daughter cells, each chromosome would also produce two daughter chromosomes, one going to each daughter cell. Chromosomes were prevented from reproducing at any other time within the cell. As long as these controls were successful, competition could not arise.

Modern cells have evolved elaborate structures and processes that strictly control the reproduction of the genetic material. Genes are joined up into chromosomes, and in the processes of mitosis and meiosis, the reproduction of chromosomes is synchronised with the reproduction of the cell. Chromosomes are strictly controlled so that none can gain a competitive advantage by getting into more daughter cells than others, or by making more copies than other chromosomes[9].

The result is that there is only one way a particular RNA or DNA gene can get a competitive advantage over any other. It must help the cell that contains it to do better than other cells that contain alternative genes. The interests of a gene are completely aligned with those of the cell that contain it.

Once RNA molecules were controlled in these ways within early cells, destructive competition was suppressed. But how were these controls actually established? What did the controlling? What had the power to control RNA molecules?

The answer is that individual RNA molecules could be controlled by the actions of the cell as a whole. That is, they could be controlled by structures and processes produced by the autocatalytic set managed by RNA. The organisation as a whole had the power to control any individual within it. So RNA molecules, in conjunction with the parts of the cell they managed and organised, were able to produce structures and processes that controlled individual RNA molecules, including themselves. And if individual molecules were ever able to find a way to manage part of the cell to break out of these controls, it would be in the interests of other RNA molecules to respond by managing the cell to reinstate the controls[10].

A broadly similar evolutionary sequence also contributed to the emergence of the cooperative human societies managed by powerful rulers that began to develop about 10,000 years ago. With the discovery of agriculture, and the establishment of settled tribal communities that accumulated food and other possessions, bands of individuals could make a living by moving from community to community, plundering food and possessions as they went. Initially, these powerful bands would have simply taken what they wanted, without any interest in the effects this might have on the capacity of the communities to continue in existence.

But the success of this strategy would decline as the number of bands and the rate at which they plundered communities increased. A band might then find that it could do better by taking over a community permanently, protecting it from other bands, and using its power to extract a stream of benefits from the community on an on-going basis. These benefits would not only include food, weapons, labour and sex. A band could also reap psychological benefits such as the experience of exercising power over a community, and feelings of self-importance and superiority.

The band would now have a direct interest in doing anything that could boost the productivity of the community. This would enable it to increase the stream of benefits it harvested. As we have seen, the greatest potential for improvements lay in the band using its ability to control the community to promote cooperation. The band could do this by aligning the interests of the individual members of the community with the community interest, and therefore with its own interests.

For example, the band could tax the community to fund activities that were beneficial to the community as a whole, such as irrigation and defence. And the band could establish an effective framework of controls to support reciprocal exchanges between community members. It could do this by punishing cheats and free riders, enforcing exchange agreements, and settling disputes fairly. In this way, a community that farmed crops and animals would in turn be farmed by a band, and the band would become a manager[11].

The better the band became at managing the community, the more powerful it would become. It could increase its power further by taking over other communities and by managing them on an on-going basis. As well as enabling the band and the community to defend better against others and to harvest greater material benefits, this would also increase the psychological benefits that could be harvested by the band and its leader. They could surround themselves with the trappings of power, and could even ensure they were treated as gods.

After a number of generations, the person who led the band and who ruled the community was a king, or even an emperor.

Just as proto cells had to find ways to stop destructive competition between RNA molecules, kingdoms had to find ways to stop competition amongst powerful individuals within the society. The simplest way was to have a supreme ruler who had power over all others in the society. It would be in the interests of the ruler to control all less powerful individuals to ensure that they acted in the interests of the society.

But the possibility of competition for the position of ruler would arise again whenever a ruler died. Other individuals could then compete to take over the position. Some might even hasten the death of the ruler to open up this possibility. The scope for this competition would be reduced if the number of people who were qualified to take the position of ruler were limited. For example, if only children of the existing ruler were permitted to become the ruler. This greatly reduced the numbers of individuals who had the supreme incentive to overthrow the ruler.

However, this method of controlling destructive competition has had limited success. History is full of examples of sons killing fathers, wives killing husbands, and brothers killing brothers in order to meet whatever restrictive criteria were set to determine who could take the position of ruler[12]. The result has been as destructive to the proper management of these human societies as competition between RNA molecules was to the interests of proto cells.

The solution was the same as in cells: the ruler had to manage the organisation to establish processes and structures that could control even rulers[13]. Laws and methods of enforcing laws had to be established that could prevent rulers and those who could become rulers from seriously damaging the society. The effect of these laws and enforcement processes would be to move toward realigning the interests of rulers and potential rulers with the interests of the society as a whole. As we shall see, the establishment of controls over rulers (including governments) so that their interests were aligned more closely with the community has been very important in the evolution of human society, and will continue to be so[14].

Provided there was strong competition between kingdoms, the interests of the ruler and the community would be closely aligned. In these circumstances, the king would have to ensure that the community was well governed if the kingdom was to survive external threats and if he was to remain king. Only the best-managed kingdoms would survive. The better the ruler was at promoting cooperative relationships between citizens and at establishing cooperative activities that benefited the community, the more secure he and the kingdom would be.

But without strong competition, the interests of the governor and the governed would not be so closely aligned. If the kingdom had no external threats, there would be no immediate cost if, for example, the ruler and his allies over-taxed the community. The survival of the kingdom would not be threatened immediately if the ruler overindulged himself and his allies with material and psychological benefits at the expense of the community. Although the ruler would still be heavily dependent on the community and their interests would still overlap somewhat, the ruler could get away with over-exploiting the community.

In the evolution of proto cells, competition between cells ensured that the interests of the RNA and the interests of the autocatalytic set remained very closely aligned. This competition produced natural selection between cells and ensured that only the best-managed cells could survive and be successful. But in human evolution, strong competition between human societies has become less significant as the societies have increased in scale. Unlike cells, there is no longer a large population of small human social groups that are continually competing against each other for survival. Natural selection no longer operates strongly between human societies.

But as competitive pressures have declined, rulers and their allies have not had a completely free hand to exploit human societies. It is not in the interests of the average member of these societies to be exploited. It is in their interests to stop a ruler who attempts to do so. Although the rulers and their allies have much greater power than any individual, if enough individuals band together, they have sometimes been able to develop sufficient power to overthrow such a ruler. Collective action of this sort, and the threat of it, have been very significant in maintaining some alignment of interests between the governor and the governed in human societies as competition declined.

But when collective action successfully overthrows a ruler, it strikes a major problem. The society must continue to be managed effectively if it is to be successful. However, the collective itself is unable to govern the society effectively. It has little option but to put its own leaders into power, to make them the rulers.

The challenge then becomes: how do you establish a system of controls that makes sure that the interests of the new managers are permanently and irrevocably aligned with the interests of the society? How do you ensure that it will not be in the interests of the new managers to behave in the way the previous managers behaved? What controls will ensure that a self-interested manager will act only in the interests of the society as a whole? This challenge is of critical importance. If the interests of the new rulers lie in the same direction as the previous rulers, the same behaviour can generally be expected. Only new controls can permanently change the way a society is governed.

History is overflowing with examples in which revolts and revolutions have failed to devise controls that meet this challenge. Instead they produced new rulers whose self-interest lay in exactly the same direction as the overthrown rulers. The pigs took over the farm, and eventually become indistinguishable from the farmers they replaced[15].

However, there have also been examples in which new controls have been put in place that help to better align the interests of the governors and the governed. The democratic process is a clear example. In theory at least, democracy allows the governors to be overthrown by popular vote if they do not serve the interests of the society.

How do our present systems of government rate against the evolutionary ideal in which the interests of management are fully aligned with those of the managed? Are the interests of those who exercise power in democratic government completely aligned with the interests of the social systems they manage? Do the structures and processes that control their interests guarantee this?

This issue will be critical to the future evolutionary success of human organisation. To be competitive in future evolution, human organisation must comprehensively get around the barrier to the evolution of cooperation. If human society is to be best placed to participate in future evolution, it must be able to fully exploit the immense potential benefits of cooperation in the interests of the society as a whole. We can be sure that in the future, as in the past, organisations that are best able to exploit the benefits of cooperation will be the most competitive. They will be best at meeting whatever evolutionary challenges arise. They will have the greatest capacity to adapt successfully to the widest range of possible future events.

For continued evolutionary success, human society must be able to establish cooperation wherever and whenever it is beneficial to society as a whole. As we have seen, this can be achieved if a system of government aligns the interests of the individual members of society with those of the society as a whole. This will ensure that individuals who pursue their own interests will pursue the interests of the society. But government will do this only if the interests of the government are completely aligned with those of the society. When this condition is met, governments that pursue their own interests will also pursue the interests of the society. They will use their power to organise cooperation that serves the interests of the society.

Where the interests of government are not aligned in this way, the society will not be able to fully exploit the benefits of cooperation to satisfy the needs of its members. This would be the case for a society in which the destiny of governments is controlled by the citizens who have the greatest economic power. In such a society, it would be in the interests of the wealthy to have the government manage the society in their interests rather than in the interests of the society as a whole. Many believe that our current social systems are in fact organised in this way: in a 1992 survey of US citizens, 80 per cent said that they thought their country was run for the rich[16]. But our present democratic governments and the economically powerful tend to disagree with this. They generally argue that there is little need to radically change our social systems. They are vigorous supporters of the status quo. They claim that our current democratic systems are, in the broad, the best available forms of government. Democratic government is as good as it gets.

But throughout history, rulers, governments and those who benefit most from them have always extolled the virtues of the particular form of government that provided them with their wealth, power and self-esteem. They often claim that their system has been designed in accordance with God’s will, or even that they themselves are gods, or at least that they have God on their side. And they commonly promote ideologies, myths and world views that support their system as the ultimate form of government, as the culmination of human history, and as the best and fairest method of organising human society. Any who push for alternative forms of government and who are sufficiently successful to threaten the established order have commonly been killed, jailed, beaten, or treated as criminals. They are often branded as mentally unstable, idiots, sexual deviants, ignorant and unscientific, or as being in the pay of enemy governments[17].

There are no examples from history of governments that have taken an evolutionary approach to systems of governance. Governments have never seriously promoted the view that they and their systems are temporary, merely a transitory step along the way to new and better forms of governance. Universally they have failed to demand that society should continually be searching for improvements in government, and should establish systems of government that are designed to evolve and to be better at evolving.

All this is exactly what would be expected of managers who have been constructed by evolution to pursue their own interests, and who have not been subject to controls that align their interests with those of the organisation they manage.

As we will see in detail, our current systems of government fail to meet the evolutionary ideal. Democratic processes are not sufficient to completely align the interests of the governors with the governed. As a result, even highly democratic human societies do not harness the benefits of cooperation in the interests of society as a whole[18]. A major challenge for humans in the future is therefore to devise forms of organisation that overcome this limitation, and that are more likely to be successful in evolutionary terms. Even though our societies may not be subject to strong and continual competition at present, we must organise our societies cooperatively so that they will be competitive in future evolution. If evolution on this planet is to continue to progress by exploiting more of the potential benefits of cooperation, we must meet this challenge successfully. In Chapter 17 we will look in detail at how humanity must reorganise its economic and social systems if it is to participate successfully in future evolution.

The origin of life itself provides a final illustration of how a system of management can emerge and exploit the benefits of cooperation. We begin with a watery environment early in the history of the earth. As the famous experiments of Miller and others[19] have shown, under the conditions that existed on the early earth, small organic molecules were produced in the atmosphere and elsewhere, and then accumulated in pools and other bodies of water. Reactions resulting from chance interactions between these smaller molecules produced a variety of larger organic molecules in the pools.

It is of critical significance for the evolution of life that some of these larger molecules had the ability to catalyse reactions amongst some of the smaller molecules. They had this catalytic ability because they were able to control the movements and behaviour of some of the smaller molecules. Large organic molecules are able to exercise control over smaller ones in the sense that they can collect them from a solution and hold them in particular positions, causing the smaller molecules to react. Importantly, the large molecules are not destroyed or modified when they do this. They continue in existence, able to repeat the process, organising more reactions of smaller molecules. In large part they can do this simply because of their greater size and stability. They can push other molecules around without reacting with them.

In this way, some larger molecules would coordinate reactions that were very unlikely to occur by chance in the mixture. These reactions could proceed only when particular combinations of smaller molecules came together at the same time in a particular spatial pattern. The likelihood of this occurring by chance would be very small in the absence of the management applied by the larger molecules.

So large organic molecules were likely to emerge that could manage smaller molecules to organise reactions that would not otherwise occur. These reactions might produce another larger organic molecule, or they might break down a molecule, releasing energy to power other reactions. New types of larger molecules would be formed in the mixture, and these in turn would manage smaller molecules to produce further new types of larger molecules. In this way, management by larger molecules opened up new possibilities for the mixture and for evolution. It generated new types of larger molecules with new properties that would not have emerged in the mixture otherwise.

The content of the mixture would change through time as a result of these processes and as conditions changed. But these changes would not unfold in any particular direction. Whatever smaller molecules a large molecule managed, and whatever reactions it produced would make no difference to whether the large molecule survived. The larger molecules would not compete with each other on the basis of what they managed. A particular change in what a large molecule managed would not make any difference to how many of the large molecules would be formed in the mixture, or how long they survived. Natural selection would not operate. It would apply only if some forms of management did better in the mixture than others. Changes in what was managed by larger molecules would be more or less random.

But all this changed suddenly if the mixture generated a large molecule that happened to have a critically important property. This property was the ability to manage other molecules to produce a reaction that boosted the rate at which the large molecule itself was formed. Suddenly, there would be a form of management that reinforced its own existence. Management would have hit upon a way to use its power to help make other instances of itself[20].

This would also mean that a form of management had been discovered that could do better than alternative forms of management. If the change in the larger molecule produced management that was more effective at boosting the reaction that produced itself, it could out-compete other varieties of large molecule. It would be better at using the resources of the mixture to reproduce itself. Natural selection would now apply between different varieties of large molecules, and this natural selection would select large molecules that were better at managing the production of other instances of themselves.

The large molecule could boost its own reproduction either directly or indirectly. The boost would be direct if the reaction managed by the large molecule produced another instance of the large molecule itself. For example, the large molecule might act as a template for a copy of itself, as in the self-replication of RNA and DNA molecules. The boost would be indirect if the managed reaction produced other molecules that in turn directly or indirectly boosted the production of instances of the original large molecule. If a collection of different types of large molecules each indirectly boosted their own reproduction in this way, the result would be an autocatalytic set that reproduced as a whole. The set as a whole would manage matter to produce new instances of all its key components. As we have seen, there is good reason to believe that the emergence of an autocatalytic set in a sufficiently rich mixture of organic molecules might be easy and not at all improbable[21].

When a self-reproducing manager first arose in a rich mixture of organic molecules, it would tend to take advantage of the organic molecules that had built up in the mixture. It would plunder the rich capital of molecules that had accumulated in the mixture, using them as food and as components for its reproduction.

But the same sort of evolutionary sequence that turned RNA and human plunderers into farmers could also be expected to have applied to the evolution of autocatalytic sets. Sets would do better when they discovered ways to manage and boost the chemical process that produced the molecules that they previously plundered. Instead of just taking the molecules they needed from the mixture, they would begin to manage the processes that produced the molecules. They would use their management capacity to enhance and boost these processes, harvesting the products for use in their own reproduction. And they would discover ways to manage these chemical processes so that the processes cooperated together through specialisation and division of labour. The result would be a proto metabolism of interlinked chemical processes that were permanently managed by the set to produce energy and material for its reproduction[22].

In this Chapter, we have seen that evolution tends to produce managers whose interests are aligned with the interests of the organisations they manage. It is in the evolutionary interests of managers to use their power to promote and support cooperation within their organisation. This enables them to harvest greater benefits from their organisation, and ensures that they and their organisation are more competitive. In this way, evolution can overcome the barrier to the evolution of cooperation. It can build cooperative organisations out of self-interested components. Once evolution has exploited some of the potential benefits of cooperation by building cooperative organisations, it can progress further by building cooperative organisations of those organisations. And then build cooperative organisations of organisations of organisations. In this way, evolution will progressively exploit the benefits of cooperation by building cooperative organisations of wider and wider scale.

But to complete our investigation of how evolution can progress by organising cooperation, we must consider another form of cooperative organisation. In this Chapter and the previous Chapter we have seen how an external manager can organise cooperation in the group it manages. In the next Chapter we will see that there is another form of management, internal management, that can also organise a group cooperatively.

 Previous Chapter ] Contents ] Next Chapter ]

 

 


[1].       Stewart, J. E. (1995) Metaevolution. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 18: 113-147; and Stewart, J. E. (1997) Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. Artificial Life 3: 101-120.

[2].       Stewart: Metaevolution. op. cit.; and Stewart: Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. op. cit.

[3].       Dyson, F. (1985) Origins of life. London: Cambridge University Press.

[4].       Stewart: Metaevolution. op. cit.; and Stewart: Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. op. cit.

[5].       Maynard Smith, J. (1979) Hypercycles and the origin of life. Nature, Lond. 280: 445-446; and Bresch, C., Niesert, U., and Harnasch, D. (1979) Hypercycles, parasites and packages. Journal of  Theoretical Biology 85: 399-405.

[6].       Wilson, D. S. and Sober, E. (1989) Reviving the Superorganism. Journal of Theoretical Biology 136: 337-356.

[7].       Bresch, Niesert, and Harnasch: Hypercycles, parasites and packages. op. cit.

[8].       Maynard Smith, J. and E. Szathmary (1993) The origin of chromosomes I. Selection for linkage. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 164: 437-446.

[9].       Ettinger, L. (1986) Meiosis: a selection stage preserving the genome's pattern of organisation. Evolutionary Theory. 8: 17-26.

[10].     Stewart: Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. op. cit.; and Leigh, E. (1977) How does selection reconcile individual advantage with the good of the group? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 74: 4542-4546.

[11].     Stewart: Metaevolution. op. cit; and McGuire, M. C. and Olson, M. (1996) The Economics of Autocracy and Majority rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force. Journal of Economic Literature 34: 72-96.

[12].     For example, see Hamilton, E. (1993) The Roman Way. New York: W. W. Norton.

[13].     Stewart: Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. op. cit.

[14].     Stewart: Metaevolution. op. cit.

[15].     Orwell, G. (1946) Animal Farm. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

[16].     Quoted at page 34 in Thurow, L. (1997) The Future of Capitalism. St Leonards: Allen and Unwin.

[17].     See, for example, Mc Murtry, J. (1978) The Structure of Marx’s World-View. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

[18].     Stewart: Metaevolution. op. cit.; and Stewart, J. E. (1997) Evolutionary Progress. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 20: 335-362.

[19].     Miller, S. L. (1953) Production of some organic compounds under possible primitive Earth conditions. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 77: 2351-2360; and Fox, S. W. (1988) The emergence of life: Darwinian evolution from the inside. New York: Basic Books.

[20].     Stewart: Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. op. cit.

[21].     Kauffman, S. A. (1993) The Origins of Order: Self-organisation and selection in evolution. New York: Oxford University Press.

[22].     Stewart: Evolutionary transitions and artificial life. op. cit.

  Previous Chapter ] Contents ] Next Chapter ]