Corporations don't "evolve"

One of the misunderstandings of evolution: there's a meme going around that all kinds of things can evolve by natural selection, not just DNA/RNA but also self-copying nanodevices and even things like human corporations. After all, the market is a battleground where survival of the fittest applies, right? Presto, evolution! With time, the corps that survive will be stronger and stronger.

Except no. Many things have to go right for a force like evolution to meaningfully apply. A big thing missing from corps and nanodevices is copying fidelity.

Look. A corp may be outcompeted by another corp who learns the lesson their enemy failed to learn – but that one's successor in turn will easily have never learned this specific lesson, and so be vulnerable to the same mistake. The same way you carry many of your parents' life-lessons but not so many of your great-grandparents' life-lessons, especially if you've never met them, and so you repeat your great-grandparents' mistakes. The same way that post-WW2 was a great time for human rights, but a few generations later fascism is on the rise. Current generations do not have the life-lessons to see through the farce: the life-lessons failed to copy themselves for more than 2-3 generations.

All the old lessons of history, you are doomed to repeat them again and again.

—Leto II, God Emperor of Dune

Contrast with DNA evolution. Consider a genetic mutation that confers a 3% increase in fitness on average. DNA copies perfectly, so after about 768 generations(!), every member of the species has inherited it – and all copies are exactly identical (if just one molecule sits differently, we regard it a different gene).

DNA copies with something like 10-8 errors per copy, several orders better copying fidelity than we can do with any machine for now – I think we're at 10-2 or something? Our nanomachines would have something like a million times the mutation rate (i.e. rate of copying errors), which isn't viable for life.

What links here

  • Evolution
  • 2021-05-05
  • *No Evolutions for Corporations or Nanodevices
Created (16 months ago)