Evolution for dummies!!!


Evolution for techies, geeks and MBAs

Flicked from this guy.

Evolution by itself is not a theory, it's a phenomenon. In organisms it is a slow process, with certain jumps that speed it up. In other things you may see it at a good pace.

Natural selection happens everywhere - organisms, substances, compounds, companies, societies, corporations, bands, artists, theories, and technologies. Anything that interacts with its environment is affected by evolution.

An example close to my heart is of cameras. 10 years back film cameras ruled the world - right? Now they don't. In another 10 years time they'll be extinct. How’s that? Cameras are objects that interact a lot with their environment - no, not the pictures they take. Cameras need supplies to function - a power source and storage. Before digital imaging came along the storage function was fulfilled by film rolls only. Then digital imaging was developed, and now consumer levels cameras have also gone digital. Similarly, ni-cad batteries have given way to ni-mh.

So cameras have 'evolved' from film to digital.

Does that mean a nikon film camera literally turned into a nikon digital camera? Or that someone opened its casings and then changed the parts therein? Then how is it that in 1980's the cameras were film only and in say 2020, the cameras will be digital only and film cameras will be 'extinct'?

It’s because of the environment. There may be people who prefer film over digital any day. They keep film alive even today. But they'll be able to keep doing that only till they find new film in the market - a factor of the environment. When say a few of them encounter a stock-out of 35mm in the town, they'll either stop shooting or buy and start using a digital camera. Maybe they'll like it better, maybe they'll not. But they'll still use it now because if they want to shoot using film, they won't be able to because of the film stockout (they of course are aware that digital is become the rave nowadays and the stockout isn't going to go away sometime soon). The markets will sense that the demand for film is decreasing, so they'll reduce their output of film, and keep churning out digital storage media. Eventually all shops in the world will stop stocking film, and then film will be extinct. So will be the film cameras. Natural selection. Digital cameras 'adapted' to the environment (that they were built to adapt, or that the markets were catering to them is not the point here... still if you want to know why, just post a reply, I’ll answer that as well), film cameras weren't equipped to 'adapt' to the environment. Thus film will be dead in some time. The cameras from 1980's without film and power will become fossils of their own 'living' self in 2020. I can show you fossils of my dad's cameras which used film that's not available today.

Now on to companies. Say there existed a company which was the world leader in film. But never cared enough for digital imaging - myopia, stupidity, whatever. It thought that it could sustain itself on the film lovers mentioned above. It forgot that its distribution doesn't reach EVERY shop in the world. So some of these film lovers do not use film made by this particular company. Now there comes a day that all the other film companies have either shut down or moved to digital. Say there were 10 film lovers. When 4 of them find out that the film they were using regularly isn't available anymore they move to digital. The remaining 6 still use our company's film. But the market has shrunk - you have 100% market share in a decreasing market... eventually the remaining 6 are going to move to digital. And the company cannot sustain itself long term on a diminishing market. Pragmatism prevails, and the company is closed down. Natural selection - the company failed to adapt to its environments.

Now on to the question of lineage etc.
say that there was another company that was a market leader in film say Nikonica. Its leaders foresaw the digital imaging future, and decided to start producing digital media 'as well'. So as happens in corporations, a factory & department is made to handle digital operations. So the VP's of the film & digital department are called VP, Nikonica Classic and VP, Nikonica Digital respectively. Time goes by and by the natural selection explained above Nikonica Classic loses customers in a diminishing market. One day the company board decides to shut down Nikonica Classic. In the meanwhile Nikonica Digital has been doing roaring business - is a top market shareholder, and is now the entire business of the company. The company Nikonica has 'evolved' into 'Nikonica Digital'. Treat the original company as a parent species and the two Classic & Digital as the children - both different in their characteristics, fit for different environments. It's just that the environment was more favourable to Digital than to Classic.

I love open markets... they mimic nature and its laws so closely that it fascinates me. They also follow evolution, and even theory of evolution fits them quite nicely. Only that the evolution in case of markets is way way faster than that in living organisms.

I hope that clears misconceptions about evolution.

Disclaimer: Evolution doesn't necessarily mean 'improvement' or isn't a process to become 'superior'. It's just a process of becoming 'better adapted'.


The good, the bad and the dowry

I guess this is a subject which has been "beaten to death" in India, by the media and even by the government itself. So this post is not so much about dowry, as it is about "good" and "bad" with respect to dowry. Good and bad dowry? What is good about dowry, you may ask. Well, to some of us it is very evident that dowry is a bad practice and it must be done away with. We cannot even imagine that someone would think of it as "good". But again, this post is not about that either!

A male colleague of mine is getting married. He told me that there wasn't going to be any dowry involved in this wedding. Well I have been telling everyone what a good thing that is, and I am really very happy that people are starting to inculcate this. But another (female) friend said, not taking dowry doesn't make you good! It makes you "not bad". There is nothing great about not taking dowry. If you do, of course you are a low-life of the worst sort (my words) but if you don't there is no virtue in it. It is what you are supposed to do!

Well I happen to disagree. In a place where most people get degrees to get a dowry, and even young software engineers of 25 say "well, dowry is a must", we must admire the person who doesn't take any. Even if it was because his parents are opposed to it, and it was no decision of his. Because I think that good and bad are relative in situations like this. When the norm is "bad" then anyone better than the norm isn't "not bad" but is good!


Pascal's wager

Even if the Atheist has doubts it is still reasonable for him to embrace {enter religion here} . To illustrate this fact, consider this situation. You are told that there is a speed-trap set by police to catch speeders on a certain road. Even if you doubt the information you must still act as though you believe it. You will slow down just to be on the safe side. You feel no need to start arguing that the police would never do a thing like that, or that you drove there before and never got caught speeding. In a similar sense the Atheist can simply submit in {enter religion here} although he still has doubts. Rather than argue about what he doubts he should first get on the safe side and then investigate further.

I will not link to the site where I found this, because it is obviously going to reveal the name of the religion and I don't want to seem like I am refuting any one religion in particular.
Being a member of several atheist newsgroups and discussion boards, I see this argument all the time, and from theists of all denominations. The radar speed trap analogy is definitely not applicable to Pascal's wager for the following reasons:

1) You are told that there is a speed-trap set by police to catch speeders on a certain road.

You have actually experienced this or seen radar speed traps before.

2) Even if you doubt the information you must still act as though you believe it.

You can actually verify the information even if you doubt it. Whether you drive over or under the speed limit to get to the verification point is your choice, but you can go and verify it all the same.

3) You feel no need to start arguing that the police would never do a thing like that, or that you drove there before and never got caught speeding.

This analogy is not applicable to dying and going to the afterlife. You have never died before so you do not know what comes after. And neither has your friend who is warning you of the consequences. On the other hand, you may have driven at this speed before or may be a resident of the area and may be aware that no radar speed traps have been introduced by the law-enforcement.

Some other fun replies to this that I have seen on the net:
Safe side? Really? You know, I've been thinking about this, and if you look at the odds Atheism really is a better bet if you view this as a giant crap shoot. Either there is no god, a god, or multiple gods. Three choices, you have about a 33% chance.

No god:
Buddhism (some may believe in a personal god but Buddhism is more or less atheistic)

A god:

Multiple gods:

Pascal's wager could really f**k you up too. Lets say an atheists chooses christianity to be on the "safe" side.

On judgement day its an angry RAM staring him down. Now you are really f**ked.