Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pathways to Idiocracy Part II

The first part of this duo of posts describes a pathway to idiocracy caused by the effects of affluence on reproduction rate, in a period of time for an alien civilization after they had made some technology advance or advances that eliminated, temporarily, the selection effect of fitness. In that situation, if the reproduction rate balance between those with smart genes and those without them was tipped toward the non-smart, and significantly so, the smart portion of the population would decline and the civilization would arrive at idiocracy.

There is another pathway as well. Perhaps there are many, but this blog is going to describe one which depends not on differential reproduction rates, but on gene combination effects. In the post on genius genes, it was pointed out that there might be a combination of genes necessary for genius. Here we investigate the idea that there might be a combination of genes necessary for higher tiers of intelligence.

Suppose that for someone to be smarter than some threshold, they had to have four genes. These four genes were floating around in the gene pool, and only when someone got all four did they have a chance of being smart. Being smart is a combination of genetic effects and upbringing, so having the four genes is not guarantee of the smartness emerging; there has to be customs within the civilization to tolerate and indeed promote intelligence and high intelligence. For the purpose of our discussion, let’s take it as a given that the population is promoting intelligence through upbringing customs.

Let’s suppose this alien world is still divided into geographic areas, being far from the point where unification makes sense. Each geographic area remained separated for a long period of time, with only sporadic interchange between them. Let’s suppose that the isolation time started back when intelligence was first emerging among the creatures that lived on the planet, and it largely was maintained, with whatever exceptions that occurred being temporary. Perhaps two groups merged at one point, or perhaps one group split up. Perhaps there was a migration of a small fraction from one group, where they couldn’t get along with the majority, and they were accepted into another group which was more conducive to whatever was their uniqueness. But by and large, there were separate groups evolving under the particular conditions of their own geographic area.

Also assume for the purpose of exploratory thinking, that one of the geographic areas put more selection pressure out for intelligent solutions to whatever problems with living that this area had. Perhaps it had horrible storms, requiring more preparation and storing of goods. Perhaps it had more vicious pests, which required careful thinking about how to remain un-infected. Perhaps the seasons were more extreme, requiring more planning on a yearly cycle. Perhaps there were resources that could be tapped by the intelligent that would lead to short-term benefits, including reproduction rate. Perhaps there was something else, but no matter which perhaps is correct, something drives this particular geographic area toward smartness faster than any of the other areas.

They make technology advances in this area. They figure out something to help themselves, but in so doing, they receive in return a strong bump up in genius genes. Now the population has a gene pool with a good fraction of genius genes, and the probability that some new alien gets the combination of four or whatever to make a genius happens pretty frequently, at least frequently enough to provide a subpopulation of really smart aliens who can solve problems, not only those specific to their geographic area, but in general. Perhaps one of them does a Francis Bacon maneuver, and initiates real scientific advances. Now their area is getting ahead of the others, and technology is blooming there.

Note this is something that has not been discussed in detail in this blog. Geographic divisions that have differential growth rates in technology may have some other effects that have not been discussed. Here we only discuss how this can fold back into the idiocracy question.

Technology would likely diffuse to other areas, by traders or travelers or migrants or lost wanderers or hunters who went too far off course, or any of a number of other options. What happens if the technology can be transferred to other areas? In other words, what happens if the use of the technology doesn’t require any genius genes or even great intelligence, just the ability to imitate. Research on this planet requires serious smarts; use doesn’t. Now we have the whole planet benefiting from the advances of the geographic area which was singled out for special selection pressure. Now we have affluence everywhere, and from the previous post, we can guess that it might have reproduction rate effects.

Whoa! With technology comes mobility and with mobility comes migration. Recall that the only reason there were geniuses in the selected geographic area was because the population of genius genes of the four types was high enough in the selected area so that the combination of all four needed ones would happen frequently enough to make all the genius aliens needed to promote technology past the Baconian transition and onto rapid advances. But now, when migration occurs and gene pools start to blend, the rate of occurrence of genius genes drops down by some factor, and now probabilities of getting all four drop down by the same factor to the fourth power. This fourth power kills off genius.

Consider what fourth power means. Just suppose each of the genius genes in the original geographic area had a rate of 10%. That means that one of every ten has one of them, and a random selection provides all four at a rate of one in ten thousand. If the population has a million people, there are a hundred geniuses producing brilliant results for all to share.

Now lets suppose that through gene pool blending, there are now ten times as many non-smart genes as before. The new rate of genius genes is 1%. Having all four is that to the fourth power, or one in a hundred million. The total population has ten million people, in other words, each of ten geographic areas had a million each and they merged. Now there is one genius every ten generations. Goodbye to technology advances. Goodbye to the maintenance of the technology existing prior to the merger of gene pools. Goodbye to the chances of star travel. Hello to ten thousand years of selection effects to get back to the level of geniuses in the population that existed before the merger. Perhaps exhaustion of resources will occur before this, or some peril will strike, or some wars occur, and the civilization is doomed to never traveling to the stars. All because of geographic distinctions…

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