Pay attention to machines around you. Pretend you’re Darwin observing their habits. It’s pretty obvious they’re evolving, and they have a parasitic relationship with us. Biological life arose in the medium of water, machines are rising out of an ocean of humanity. Most people think of evolution only in terms of biology, but it can be applied to cosmology, particle physics, and now mechanical evolution. Scientists have often wondered if life could be based on something other than carbon, well, we’re seeing beings of silicon evolve right in front of our eyes.
The First Law: Machines Are Becoming More Intelligent
Like single cell animals being outwitted by multi-cell organisms, and the animal kingdom being dominated by humans, machine evolution is moving towards smarter machines replacing dumber. Generally we think of machines as getting more complex or having more features, but if you compare an iPhone to an old rotary phone, it is more complex, does more, but more than that, it’s far smarter. We call them smartphones and dumb phones, and the dumb phones are going extinct.
The Second Law: Machines Are Becoming More Functional
Machines that do more are replacing machines that do less. Modern sewing machines can do what once took several machines. Modern refrigerators are no longer just boxes of cold. A smartphone replaces a cell phone, portable GPS, MP3 player, PDA, camera, video camera, organizer, watch, alarm clock and could replace a laptop and ebook for some users. My desktop ate my CD player, record player, radio and typewriter. I can’t tell if my computer is going to eat the TV, or if the TV will eventually eat the computer. Even a simple machine like a knife evolves to serve more functions.
The Third Law: Machines Are Evolving Towards Simplicity
Machines want to have fewer parts, especially ones that don’t move. Charles Babbage tried to build a machine that was too mechanically complex to survive. 19th century machines were overwhelmingly complex, they had to evolve into simpler machine we saw in the 20th century. But even those machines are too complex. Soon solid state drives will replace hard discs, and people will abandon all forms of optical drives. Floppy drives disappeared long ago. But even more mechanical machines like washers, dryers, cars, HVACs, etc. are moving towards fewer moving parts. Clocks used to be marvels of complexity, and now they are solid state circuits. Electric cars have far fewer parts than gasoline powered automobiles.
The Fourth Law: Machines Are Evolving Towards Efficiency
A Kindle ebook can last weeks on one charge. A Toyota Prius uses less gas than a Edsel. A modern air conditioner uses a fraction of electricity than a unit back in the 1950s used. Modern jetliners can fly further and faster on less fuel than their ancestors.
The Fifth Law: Machine Evolution is Driven by Humans
Human evolution was driven by survival of the fittest adapting to changing environments. Machines evolve though the competitive needs of people. One day they will evolve from their own competitive nature, but until then humans are the driving force of machine evolution. Ultimately we’ll cross breed and form cyborgs.
JWH – 4/17/12