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Ecological feedback drives the evolution of ideas and living things, which carry them Richard (Rick) Weisburd University of Tsukuba.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecological feedback drives the evolution of ideas and living things, which carry them Richard (Rick) Weisburd University of Tsukuba."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecological feedback drives the evolution of ideas and living things, which carry them Richard (Rick) Weisburd University of Tsukuba

2 Ideas for exploration What is an idea? Are ideas unique to humans? Are ideas unique to living organisms? Is the number of possible ideas finite? Are static ideas qualitatively different than – Interactive ones? –Communicated ones? Should we map ideas?

3 What is an idea? Not defined in edition 1.2 of the UNESCO/IUBS/EUBIOS Bioethics Dictionary Ricks proposed definition: 1.A unit of information that represents an experience, feeling, or memory of perception of things physical or abstract, sensed or intuited, real or imagined. 2.A result of processing such units of information, alone or in combination with others.

4 Are ideas unique to humans? Human mind – commonly considered the home of human ideas –A powerful idea generating and processing tool that has facilitated human survival Perception and response to the environment is a powerful adaptive character present in most, if not all, living organisms. Conclusion: ideas are present in most or all living organisms

5 Non-human primate cultures Even with a more restrictive definition of ideas, ideas are not restricted to humans E.g. chimpanzees and orangutans have culture

6 Are ideas unique to living organisms? Rocks are made of minerals Crystals – some minerals form simple, geometrically perfect, repeating organizational structures on both the molecular and macroscopic levels

7 Memory in rocks Structure and mineral composition of rock tells us about the environments those rocks experienced during their evolution Sedimentary rocks contain information about the environment in which they were deposited –isotopic composition of remains of mineral parts created by ancient organisms teaches us about the temperature of the environments in which those organisms lived

8 Is the number of possible ideas finite? Don't the nucleic acids in living organisms represent evolutionary ideas? DNA has 4 bases: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymidine How many possible combinations of these 4 letters exist?

9 Exponential increase in sequence combinations y=4 x 10, , , 10 18

10 Number of possible ideas Infinite? Only if the number of unique bases, the sequence length, or the number of sequences is infinite. Humongous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

11 Idea quality DNA contains information, but this information has further potential only in the context of a system to translate and express this information Processing of ideas can make them –Physical –Transformative –Powerful –Enduring

12 Useful ideas Red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) bite sugar maples, let the oozing sap dry, and then return to eat the maple sugar Pollination

13 Ecological ideas Nature contains a vast multitude of ideas that are potentially useful to humans Each organism and ecological relationship represents a book in the library of life. –Most of these books are unknown and unread by humans Humans, though members of the quaternary biota, are causing the 6 th known mass extinction event. We are burning the library!

14 Conclusions The number of possible ideas seems to be –Incomprehensibly vast, but finite Not all ideas are equal. Processing of ideas endows them with –Relevance to life –Longevity –Elegance and beauty The Earth contains an incomprensibly vast store of ideas (wisdom) of particular value and importance to humans. Should we map ideas or put out the fire with which we are burning them?

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