Beyond evolution

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun Jan 28 2001 - 11:07:20 MST

Evolution is the simplest way for a system to evolve greater complexity in
the absence of intelligence. Not the best way - the simplest way. The
first way hit upon. Evolution prevails, not because it's better, or best,
or morally right in any way whatsoever, but because it's there and there
are no forces acting against it.

Luke: "Is the Dark side stronger?"
Yoda: "No! no...quicker, easier, more seductive..."

Evolution is not the brilliant idea of solving the problem more
effectively by subtracting intelligence; evolution is the result of adding
the *constraint* that the problem must be solved in a way that does not
invoke intelligence.

I'm steeped in the antiteleological precautions of evolutionary
psychology. You're spending your time with the computer science version
of evolution - one in which "evolutionary programming" is a brilliant way
to overcome some of the inherent limits of human intelligence using
processes that don't invoke general cognition. (Of course, the processes
*can't* invoke general cognition because nobody's programmed that yet.)

Evolutionary programming is not superior to a seed AI with a modality,
2Ghz transistors, and patience; but EP can reach spaces inaccessible to a
human, with no modality, who operates in 200hz time and is easily bored
and is especially bored by simple things; a human who instinctively tries
to use all those parallel neurons on each design attempt, and has neither
the patience nor the time to use 10^14 synapses to test lots of simple
local optimizations.

Evolution is not something I like. Evolution is something that *is*.
Moreover, it's a something-that-is that I think humanity (and our new
friends) should move away from. I think evolution is something we should
grow out of as we grow up. Evolution is not the best way, or even a good
way, it's simply the first way. In casting aside evolution, we will lose
nothing, gain everything, because there is nothing whatsoever that
evolution can do that can't be done by a sufficiently powerful general
intelligence. Humans are not "sufficiently powerful", but a seed AI is.

Evolution is what happens in the *total absence* of morality or
intelligence. I'm not talking about the evolution of moral and
intelligent beings, which has been known to happen; I mean that morality
and intelligence have no influence on the systemic structure of evolution
itself. Evolution is the way things are because it's the first way that
unintelligent reality hits upon. Evolution, like death, like pain, like
the constant struggle to survive, is a part of default-state reality that
humanity shall CONQUER as we attain our place in the Universe. I believe
in the *triumph* of altruistic general intelligence over evolution as part
of the Singularity.

I think that's the underlying reason why we disagree about the ability of
evolution to affect the Singularity: you see evolution as a force that's
strong and necessary; I see it as a force that's pretty weak compared to
intelligence, and was never all that attractive to begin with.

> Because all my experimentation with genetic algorithms shows that,
> for evolutionary processes, initial conditions are fairly irrelevant.
> The system evolves fit things that live in large basins of attraction,
> no matter where you start them.

Well, yeah, sure... in the total absence of moral intelligence. What else
would you expect?

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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