Designing Evolution

A version of social engineering known as “nudging” has many parallels with front-loading evolution. Key to the concept of nudging is the “choice architecture”: What is “choice architecture” and how does it affect the average person’s daily life?

Thaler and Sunstein: Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where’s the chocolate cake? Where’s the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects.

Let’s rephrase this. A choice architecture is a context that has been set up to favor certain choices or outcomes. The choice architecture is the design and it is this design that influences the choices or outcomes later in time.

At this point, we simply ask whether choice architecture/context must necessarily be environmental?

Consider human choice. Do you accept the idea that a person’s genetics can predispose him to make certain choices? There is plenty of evidence that says it does. So the context that influences choice does not necessarily need to be environmental. The choice can be influenced by both environmental and genetic contexts. In principle then, the choice architecture behind the nudge can be internal/genetic.

So if we posit that the original life forms were designed, instead of viewing the composition and architecture of life as something that natural forces cannot possibly account for, consider the more tantalizing possibility that the composition and architecture of the first cells as representing a choice architecture designed to influence/nudge the “choices” made during subsequent evolution. The manner in which the various pieces and parts of life were hooked up would represent the architecture of life and this, in turn, would amount to a logic that would help guide and facilitate subsequent evolution. The actual pieces and parts of life would represent the composition of life and this, in turn, would amount to various preadaptations that would favor certain evolutionary trajectories over others.

And if you think about it, nudging from an internal state has a huge advantage over nudging from an environmental state. The internal state of every organism is faithfully replicated and thus travels through time. Reproduction is not merely a brute given that lies at the bottom of biological reality, but is a mechanism for design, and nudging, to persist over time and influence the future from the past.


One response to “Designing Evolution

  1. Evolution by design/ Designed to evolve

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