Technological vs. Biological Evolution
|October 19, 2005||Posted by William Dembski under Evolution|
Adaptive evolution in biology and technology:
Why are parallels expected?
University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
INTRODUCTION: Since the beginnings of technology, inventors have sought to draw parallels between biological and technological designs. Among the flurry of such studies appearing in the 1960’s was Altshuller’s The Innovation Algorithm (1), in which he assembled myriad observations on biological role, function, design, and evolutionary history. Perhaps ironically, Altshuller’s subsequent derivation of laws of technological evolution (2) was without explicit reference to biological systems. However, some workers (e.g., 3,4,5,6), inspired by accumulating admiration of biological design and its applicability to technical problems, sought to understand biological evolution in terms of these technological-evolutionary laws. More recently, an inversion of this paradigm has prompted Mann (7,8) and others (e.g., 6,9,10,11) to ask what technological evolution might gain by emulating biological evolution. Indeed, the notion that biological evolution is somehow “optimal” or “ideal” has stimulated attempts to impose on technological evolution certain characteristic properties of biological evolution. This optimalistic motivation is underlain by a rich (but embarrassingly extravagant) tradition in evolutionary biology of adaptive storytelling and marvelling at the functional optimality of organisms to their lifestyles (12). For both evolutionary biologists and TRIZ evolutionists, this perception of an evolutionary ideal to be found in nature may go too far Ã¢â‚¬â€ and lead astray an otherwise productive pursuit. If biological evolution is subideal, then the quest for its emulation in technological evolution may turn out to be a relatively unproductive one. It is worth considering three questions in this connection:
(1) What makes biological evolution potentially subideal Ã¢â‚¬â€ perhaps even less ideal than present-day technological evolution?
(2) Why should we expect biological and technological evolution to behave and proceed similarly or differently?
(3) Is there anything to be gained by emulation of biological evolution (beyond biological form and function themselves)?
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