Nicholas Gessler (gessler@UCLA.EDU)
Tue, 30 Apr 1996 14:43:41 -0700

>Sheldon Klein wrote:
>It is possible to view the biological/cultural/social/etc. history of
>humanity as a single type of phenomenon--that of self-modifying,
>self-reproducing information transmission. From this point of view,
>notions of innate vs learned behavior merge, the only difference
>being the media and modes of transmission and modification.

Thank you Sheldon! This is an interesting proposition, and not as
far-fetched as it may at first appear. There is a considerable amount of
work being done on computational modeling of living systems including some
aspects of human social interaction. Much of it may be termed evolutionary
computing, and makes use of neural nets, genetic algorithms, genetic
programming and evolutionary programming. What is interesting is the
"strong" argument that the process of evolution underlays both this sort of
computation and biological processes. Furthermore, that the process
underlays many "cultural" phenomena including learning as well. To these we
might add the argument that the processes of development of an individual
organism (fetus to child to adult) is also a process of neuronal, cellular,
and immunological evolution. Ontology is, to quote a current researcher,
"evolution all the way up!" Admiting to some physics envy, it's also
interesting to note that a current view of physics is that it is now in its
fourth stage of "evolution" as a discipline. Beginning as a study of
determistic mechanics, it has moved through statistical mechanics and
computational mechanics and is now occupied with evolutionary mechanics.
(See the journal Physica-D [D=stage 4].)

Having said this, the differences between computers, organisms and culture
may indeed be explained as "the media and modes of transmission and
modification." None of the foregoing means that we have to abandon
traditional lines of enquiry. It does however mean that we have to be open
to contemporary reformulations of the "culture/biology" problem.

If anyone would like to discuss this further "off line" please email me.
This is something I'm currently researching and I'd like to keep in touch
with others interested in "the evolutionary process writ large."

Nick Gessler
UCLA Anthropology
Computational Evolution and Ecology Group