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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis

A. A Major Emergent Evolutionary Transitions Scale

Cooney, Daniel, et al. A PDE Model for Protocell Evolution and the Origin of Chromosomes via Multilevel Selection. arXiv:2109.09357. University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and UCLA biotheorists including Simon Levin contribute 75 pages to the increasing flow of universality proofs by way of mathematically situating emergent genetic phenomena within the popular major emergent transitions scale. As the Abstract notes, an array of “fast and slow replicators” mix and match to help get life going on its oriented way to our retro-quantification.

The evolution of complex life involved major transitions such as the aggregation of individual genes into a replicating genome and the encapsulation of self-replicating genetic entities into cellular units. Here we model the evolution of proto-chromosomes within protocells as composed of two types of genes: "fast" for gene-level self-replication and "gene" which facilitates protocell-level reproduction. Our results suggest that dimerization can overcome lower-level effects and work in concert with multilevel selection to allow for complementary genes that coexist at the protocell-level but compete at the level of individual gene-level replication. (Abstract excerpt)

Czegel, Daniel, et al. Major Evolutionary Transitions as Bayesian Structure Learning. Royal Society Open Science. August, 2019. Hungarian Academy of Sciences veteran theorists DC, Istvan Zacher, and Eors Szathmary scope out advanced methods to enhance this MET in Individuality scale, which ES and John Maynard Smith conceived in the 1990s. As proof of its validity, the nested repetitive scale (nominally 8 steps) from rudimentary genes and cells to societal language is now widely accepted. Herein an inclusion of an active knowledge-gaining faculty by way of scalar Bayesian iterations is proposed. With colleagues, the authors have pursued a parallel approach to view evolution as a learning process, see the Evolutionary Intelligence section.

Complexity of life forms on Earth has increased tremendously, primarily driven by subsequent evolutionary transitions in individuality, a mechanism in which units formerly being capable of independent replication combine to form higher-level evolutionary units. Although this process has been likened to the recursive combination of pre-adapted sub-solutions in the framework of learning theory, no general mathematical formalization has been provided yet. Here we show, building on work connecting replicator dynamics with Bayesian methods, that (i) evolution of a hierarchical population under multilevel selection is equivalent to inference in hierarchical Bayesian models, and (ii) evolutionary transitions in individuality, driven by synergistic fitness interactions, is equivalent hierarchical structures via Bayesian model comparisons. These correspondences support a learning based narrative of evolutionary complexification: the complexity and depth of the hierarchical structure of individuality mirrors the amount and complexity of data that has been integrated about the environment through the course of evolutionary history. (Abstract edits)

Davison, Dinah and Richard Michod. Steps to Individuality in Biology and Culture. Royal Society Philosophical Transactions B.. January, 2023. In this special issue, University of Arizona ecological biologists draw on several years of empirical, field and theoretic work (search RM) to offer their findings and views as they may apply to, inform and enlighten life’s latest emergent, composite, personal Earthuman closure.

Did human culture arise through an evolutionary transition in individuality (ETI)? To address, we examine the steps of biological ETIs to see how they could apply to human culture. To do so, we illustrate ETI stages drawing on our work (search RM) on multicellularity in the volvocine algae. We consider how those stages could apply to a transition event involving integrated groups of cultural traditions and the hominins that create and transmit them. We focus primarily on the early Pleistocene and the change from Oldowan to Acheulean technology. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that human culture has undergone an ETI from a Pan-like ancestor during the Pleistocene that is just now culminating in our modern human stage. (Excerpt)

Davison, Dinah, et al.. Did Human Culture Emerge in a Cultural Evolutionary Transition in Individuality? Biological Theory. July, 2021. This contribution by University of Arizona and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden system anthropologists including Richard Michod and Claes Andersson (search each) is a good indication of how the nested emergence model is finally being applied to and found in much effect across our local to global personsphere phase. An admission of its sequential presence and recurrent properties can serve to consolidate and deeply verify of life’s oriented development. Our present essay and the whole Natural Genesis resource is then attributed by certain Earthomo, Earthuman, EarthWise, planetary progeny identities to this late, (wo)manifest, prodigious occasion.

Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality (ETI) have been responsible for the major transitions in levels of selection and individuality in natural history, such as the origins of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, multicellular organisms, and eusocial insects. The integrated hierarchical organization of life thereby emerged as groups of individuals repeatedly evolved into new and more complex kinds of individuals. The Social Protocell Hypothesis (SPH) proposes that the integrated hierarchical organization of human culture can also be understood as the outcome of an ETI—one that produced a “cultural organism” from a substrate of socially learned traditions that were contained in growing and dividing communities. We assess the SPH by several criteria which qualify an evolutionary of individuality as it may emerge from biological to cultural units across the long history of Homo sapiens. (Abstract)

Dedeo, Simon. Major Transition in Political Order. arXiv:1512.03419. The Indiana University systems scientist applies this popular evolutionary scale (Szathmary) from replicator molecules to human communications onto a further civilizational phase. While prior stages are seen as based on how information is stored and conveyed, sapient societies arise and proceed more by how it is processed. A computational version is advanced to explain a “lossy” cleaning up or compression of this cultural transmission. A bit technical in style, see also The Evolution of Lossy Compression by DeDeo and Sarah Marzen at arXiv:1506.06138.

We present three major transitions that occur on the way to the elaborate and diverse societies of the modern era. Our account links the worlds of social animals such as pigtail macaques and monk parakeets to examples from human history, including 18th Century London and the contemporary online phenomenon of Wikipedia. From the first awareness and use of group-level social facts to the emergence of norms and their self-assembly into normative bundles, each transition represents a new relationship between the individual and the group. At the center of this relationship is the use of coarse-grained information gained via lossy compression. The role of top-down causation in the origin of society parallels that conjectured to occur in the origin and evolution of life itself. (Abstract)

In information technology, lossy compression is the class of data encoding methods that uses inexact approximations (or partial data discarding) to represent the content. These techniques are used to reduce data size for storage, handling, and transmitting content. (Wikipedia)

Erwin, Douglas. Tempos and Modes of Collectivity in the History of Life. Theory in Biosciences. Online September, 2019. The National Museum of Natural History paleobiologist posts a latest explanatory synthesis for life’s well documented episodic, scalar emergence from bioreplicators to linguistic entities. In collaboration with Santa Fe Institute and Arizona State University theorists, Erwin adds a salutary aspect of a collective computation at work. A further vital inclusion is evolution as a learning process due to Richard Watson, Eors Szathmary (co-originator with John Maynard Smith of the major transitions view) and others. These expansions are then seen to bolster evidence for a constant convergence throughout. A surmise might be that along with nodal elements, integral nature is graced with an equally real propensity to join into symbiotic communal groupings which altogether survive and develop toward our composite humankinder perception. This article is part of the Special Issue on Quantifying Collectivity.

Collective integration and processing of information have increased through the history of life, through both the formation of aggregates in which the entities may have very different properties and which jointly coarse-grained environmental variables (ranging from microbial consortia to diverse coral reef species) and through collectives of similar entities (cells within an organism or social groups). Such increases have been implicated in significant transitions in the history of life, including aspects of the origin of life, the generation of pangenomes among microbes and stromatolite communities, multicellularity and social insects. Here we provide a preliminary overview of the dominant modes of collective information processing in the history of life, their phylogenetic distribution and extent of convergence, and the effects of new modes for integrating and acting upon information upon the tempo of evolutionary change. (Abstract)

Estrela, Sylvie, et al. Transitions in Individuality through Symbiosis. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 31/191, 2016. Biologists Estrela and Ben Kerr, University of Washington, and Jeff Morris, University of Alabama, seek to finesse the popular Major Transitions in Evolution scale whereby whence life’s course from unicellular microbes to multicellular organisms is occurred by a common mode of smaller, diverse entities which came together as a larger, cohesive, functionally reciprocal whole.

When a more complex, functionally integrated entity emerges from the association of simpler, initially independent entities, a major evolutionary transition has occurred. Transitions that result from the association of different species include the evolution of the eukaryotic cell and some obligate mutualisms. Recent studies are revolutionizing our understanding of how these intimate interspecific associations come to be, revealing how and to what extent each partner contributes to the relationship, and how partners mediate conflict. Here, we review work on the evolution of mutualistic symbioses in the context of transitions in individuality and highlight how a better mechanistic understanding of the ecological drivers of host-symbiont interdependencies can help elucidate the evolutionary path to symbiotic organismality. (Abstract)

Foley, Robert, et al. Major Transitions in Human Evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 371/1698, 2016. A special collection from a Royal Society and British Academy 2015 meeting about whether such a scalar ascent might apply to and be found in some places and to some degree over the million year course from primates to hominids to ourselves as we altogether reconstruct our prehistory. The articles include The Origin and Evolution of Homo Sapiens by Chris Stringer, and Morphological Variation in Homo Erectus and the Origins of Developmental Plasticity by Susan Anton, et al.

Evolutionary problems are often considered in terms of ‘origins', and research in human evolution seen as a search for human origins. However, evolution, including human evolution, is a process of transitions from one state to another, and so questions are best put in terms of understanding the nature of those transitions. This paper discusses how the contributions to the themed issue ‘Major transitions in human evolution’ throw light on the pattern of change in hominin evolution. Four questions are addressed: (1) Is there a major divide between early (australopithecine) and later (Homo) evolution? (2) Does the pattern of change fit a model of short transformations, or gradual evolution? (3) Why is the role of Africa so prominent? (4) How are different aspects of adaptation—genes, phenotypes and behaviour—integrated across the transitions? The importance of developing technologies and approaches and the enduring role of fieldwork are emphasized. (Abstract)

Furukawa, Hikaru and Sara Imari Walker. Major Transitions in Planetary Evolution. Ikegami, Takashi, et al, eds. ALIFE 2018 Conference Proceedings. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2018. A select paper from this online volume by Arizona State University astrogeobiologists who perceive life’s oriented development as a nested iterative scale of relative informational genomes and aware organisms in communal groupings. A further worldwide emergence could be our linguistic personsphere sapience via a cumulative geonomic culture which is able to reconstruct all this.

Earth has undergone a succession of stages driven by physical, chemical, geological, biological, and social processes. Among the most significant transitions in Earth’s planetary evolution are the emergence of life and subsequent biochemical innovations, social behavior and cognition, and of technology. After life emerged, planetary processes became much more complex due to diverse biogeochemical possibilities. With the advent of collective cognitive societies, many planetary processes became controlled by life. With higher technologies, intentional steering of the environment commenced. In each stage, new mechanisms of control, mediated by novel information processing architectures, are added to existing levels on the biosphere environment. We can classify these evolutionary stages of planets into matter-dominated, life-dominated, and agency-dominated phases, where each is distinguished by how much information processing systems might affect planetary processes. (Abstract edits)

In this paper we characterize physics, life, intelligence, and technology from each other in terms of the ole of information in controlling matter, and how this shapes the planetary environment, allowing the possibility of placing these phases on the same continuum. This suggest three phases of planetary evolution for comparison: matter-dominated (no life), life-dominated, and intelligence-dominated, where transitions between these correspond to changes in the organization of information in physical systems, and how that organization constructs and controls the planetary environment. (101) Humanity’s ways of storing, sharing, and using information are transitioning Earth from a life-dominated planet to an agency-dominated planet. (102)

Gabora, Liane and Cameron Smith. Exploring the Psychological Basis for Transitions in the Archaeological Record. arXiv:1812.06590. The University of British Columbia and Portland State University team continues their innovative studies upon the evolutionary advent of unlimited human creativity. These native abilities which seem deeply innate while infinite in their potential are then attributed to two major cognitive transitions.

Gilbert, Scott. Evolutionary Transitions Revisited: Holobiont Evo-Devo. Journal of Experimental Zoology B. Online September 29, 2019. The Swarthmore College biologist and author contributes to this John Bonner issue, which altogether supports an inherent structural view of life’s oriented emergence from physical sources all the way to curious peoples. Gilbert is a prime advocate of this integrative realization that organisms and selves are actually communal entities by way of myriad microbes. See also Suarez & Trivino herein for a recent endorsement.

John T. Bonner lists four essential transformations in the evolution of life: the emergence of the eukaryotic cell, meiosis, multicellularity, and the nervous system. This paper analyses the mechanisms for those transitions in light of three of Dr. Bonner's earlier hypotheses: (a) that the organism is its life cycle, (b) that evolution consists of alterations of the life cycle, and (c) that development extends beyond the body and into interactions with other organisms. Using the notion of the holobiont life cycle, we attempt to show that these evolutionary transitions can be accomplished through various means of symbiosis. Perceiving the organism both as an interspecies consortium and as a life cycle supports a twofold redefinition of the organism as a holobiont constructed by integrating together the life cycles of several species. These findings highlight the importance of symbiosis and the holobiont development in analyses of evolution. (Abstract)

Gillings, Michael, et al. Information in the Biosphere: Biological and Digital Worlds. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Online December, 2015. As researchers turn to and carry forth the popular major evolutionary transitions scale, bioinformatic theorists Gillings and Darrell Kemp, Macquarie University, Sydney and Martin Hilbert, UC Davis, proceed to view the worldwide Internet as a next nascent stage. In our human hyper-society, its informational complement becomes the many algorithmic programs at work. Illustrations display its progress from original RNA and DNA replications to eukaryote cells onto complex multicellular organisms and human language. A further composite then appears as “digital self-replication, biological-digital fusion, and digital sentience.” By so doing, one might note that an emergent genetic quality distinguishes and tracks each nested phase, present once more as an equivalent global genome.

Evolution has transformed life through key innovations in information storage and replication, including RNA, DNA, multicellularity, and culture and language. We argue that the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system (humans) capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition. Digital information has reached a similar magnitude to information in the biosphere. It increases exponentially, exhibits high-fidelity replication, evolves through differential fitness, is expressed through artificial intelligence (AI), and has facility for virtually limitless recombination. Like previous evolutionary transitions, the potential symbiosis between biological and digital information will reach a critical point where these codes could compete via natural selection. Alternatively, this fusion could create a higher-level superorganism employing a low-conflict division of labor in performing informational tasks. (Abstract)

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