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…..


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