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The next step in evolution: a technical life form that passes on knowledge and experience

03 September 2010 Radboud University

Darwin’s theory of evolution describes the survival of the best adapted organisms, but pays little attention to the succession of living things during evolution. Biologist Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis developed the ‘operator hierarchy’, a system based on the complexity of particles and of organisms, which can predict the next step in evolution: a technical life form, that can pass on its knowledge and experience to the next generation. Jagers will receive his doctorate from Radboud University Nijmegen on Monday 6 September.

Biologists’ take on the hierarchy of life has been pretty careless up to now. This hinders the discipline, says Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis. And there is room for improvement: following lengthy research Jagers came up with a hierarchy that is not only more consistent but also includes the classification of inorganic natural matter.

Following after the ‘memons’, the multicellulars with a neural network, Jagers predicts that the next closure will lead to a life form in which the transfer of the blueprint by means of genes is replaced with the transfer of knowledge and collective experience by so-called ‘memes’.

In Jagers’ view, memes are codes that determine the structure of the brain. In turn, the structure of the brain determines someone’s knowledge. In this way, memes are carriers of brain structure and the corresponding knowledge, just like genes are carriers of protein recipes and the corresponding cell physiology.

The next life form will not necessarily develop by means of biological evolution: as far as Jagers is concerned, a machine that shows intelligent behaviour based on a neural network fulfils the definition of life. If this system can then also pass on its memory to the next generation then this involves a new step in evolution. ‘However, for the time being such robots still need humans to build them.’

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