Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Adaptation-Executers, More Than Fitness-Maximizers

On Earth's most interesting blog Overcoming Bias, Eliezer Yudkowsky quotes John Tooby and Leda Cosmides: "Individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers rather than as fitness-maximizers." That's something that all of us fans of evolutionary psychology need to keep firmly in mind. While Yudkowsky's example of fatty foods is hits close to home as I finish my second week of The Blogger Diet (see graph above left), much more interesting cases are discussed in his posting about Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization. Transhumanists vastly over-estimate the probability of a technological singularity in the next couple of centuries (and its associated existential risks for humanity), while at the same time under-estimating the possibility that our species will (as he quotes Simon Funk saying) market itself out of existence. Meanwhile, over on the Lifeboat Foundation's private discussion list, G. David Brin has pointed us to his 1982 paper that coined the term the Great Silence. He acts quite unimpressed at recent discussion of the Fermi Paradox, so I'll be eager to read whether he properly considered the extent to which runaway consumerism helps explain it.

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