Peter Bentley

Digital Biology

The Creation of Life inside Computers and How it Will Affect us

Headline Book Publishing 2001

KEYWORDS : evolution - reproduction - inheritance - selection - variation

pg 38


Evolution is an immensely powerful process. It operates on geological timescales, and yet can also cause changes in a matter of months. We can see the power of evolution in its actions: the result of revolution are spectacular, and indeed they form the basis of all the computing techniques described in this book. But the true power of evolution comes not from what it does but in the way that it does it to. In other words, before we can use evolution on our computers we must explore the workings of evolution - just how and why do things evolve? Evolution has of a specific and really quite simple meaning: it is a gradual process of directed change. But one cannot just call any such process evolutionary. Three elements play in the starring roles in evolutionary process: Reproduction with inheritance, selection and variation

Evolution is a concept that is independent of medium. We are all used to the idea of revolution in nature, but this is only one medium in which evolution operates. Here is another: language.

Our languages are not static. Every year, new words are added to the dictionary, and the meanings of existing words change. Some words are borrowed from other languages and mutated, while at this fall out of fashion and become disused. Our languages are evolving as we speak them, and they have been since then inception, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Charles Darwin was well aware of and influenced by theories of language evolution as he formulated his theory of natural selection. Let's take a closer look to see whether language is truly evolve. A language, like an organism, is reproduced all spread by copying smaller subcomponents. Instead of genius, language is our defined by words, meanings and rules of grammar. When parents teach achild their language, that languages being reproduced in the mind of the child. The child will inherit the words and meaningless other language from the parents. Because of misunderstandings, mistakes and other random errors, each one of us often uses the same words to mean slightly different things. Variation can also be caused by people creating new words. And selection of words, meanings and grammar rules happens also. Because the three process is of reproduction, selection and variation are clearly evident in language, we can confidently conclude that our languages do evolve. Unlike natural evolution, which operates in the physical universe of atoms, molecules, chemicals and physical laws, language evolution operates in a different medium. Our language is involved in the conceptual universe made up of brains, books, speech and writing.


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