Evolution’s third replicator

“WE HUMANS have let loose something extraordinary on our planet – a third replicator – the consequences of which are unpredictable and possibly dangerous.

What do I mean by “third replicator”? The first replicator was the gene – the basis of biological evolution. The second was memes – the basis of cultural evolution. I believe that what we are now seeing, in a vast technological explosion, is the birth of a third evolutionary process. We are Earth’s Pandoran species, yet we are blissfully oblivious to what we have let out of the box…..

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Putting it that way makes the answer easier to see. Memes are a new kind of information – behaviours rather than DNA – copied by a new kind of machinery – brains rather than chemicals inside cells. This is a new evolutionary process because all of the three critical stages – copying, varying and selection – are done by those brains. So does the same apply to new technology?

There is a new kind of information: electronically processed binary information rather than memes. There is also a new kind of copying machinery: computers and servers rather than brains. But are all three critical stages carried out by that machinery?….”

full article via newscientist