Meta-evolution – evolving the capacity to learn

The real value of a language learning (or any other kind of learning) organ, as Chomsky called it, is that its most valuable output is the _capacity_ to be so sensitive to the environment that mental processes grow to represent it. That is, the diversity of environments that humans find themselves in is so rich and varied that a hard wired and inflexible capacity would be of limited value compared to a "meta-learning" facility that develops to represent the environment the organism finds itself in.

Meta-evolution would be of more evolutionary value than just plain evolution – a learning capacity that can evolve in the real-time of an organism's life seems more valuable than the simple evolution of a set of skills and competences that must be evolved over time as environments change.

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4 comments

  1. I guess this explains why heavy drinking (which damages neurons – leaving room for “growth”) causes inspired (and often noisy) late night discussions.

    ‘Drink’ for thought….

    This also implies that stupid people cope better to large changes in environment e.g. stone-age man vs. the Golgafrinchans ???

    These thoughts would also tie in with Stephen King’s “Lawnmover Man” – retards could, with suitible training, be made significantly smarter than “normal” people.

    On this basis could humankind be better served by breeding people into a worker-type – mechanics, sw developers, politicians, gardeners etc. ? Are we doomed by the sloth of generic evolution to push our minds and society into specialised groups?

    Propelling thoughts indeed…..

  2. This reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s comment about classification of continuous functions with discrete categories. Which is a grand way of saying that he said something about the fact that removing one hair from a man’s head doesn’t make him bald. Therefore you can continue to pull hairs out of your head in the sure and certain knowledge that you won’t be bald afterwards. Continue this process and you reach a point when other people might call you bald, but your scheme says you can’t logically be bald. You may wonder what all this has to do with evolution, and I will tell you. On the way to being a genius, a dumb person has to pass through all point between, including the area inhabited by normals. So, at the pint when they are the same as normal, would they still have more potential than normals, by virtue of having come from below?

    Maybe what you’re on about is the fact that never having used their brain for thought, stupid people don’t have any bad habits to lose?

    It’s interesting that if you don’t have to cross all points between dull and bright, there is a switch you could flick in the brain that would turn the lights on? I wonder whether we will ever find that switch, and what life would be like in a society where everyone was smart.

  3. I think it’s more interesting to think of a society with the same distribution and mean “smartness” as today, but through vertical specialisation, we have near perfect car mechanics, taxi drivers, and even [shock] software designers?

    Like bladerunner, ‘cept the specialists are still human.

    Could this be how man makes great leaps in advancement – by breeding (for example) perfect scientists, who use the cognitive space usually filled with life’s menial tasks, (like dressing themselves) for thoughts of science?
    Far fetched? Ask Stephen Hawking.

    Spooky.

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