Diversity is moving from the tree of life to man-made objects. Have we really surpassed nature? No, we are nature!
So let’s zoom out a little from the conventional borders of our sciences, looking at the evolution beyond biology:
The competitive exclusion principle
The competitive exclusion principle (CEP) in ecology states that two species competing over the same resource cannot coexist forever; One will eventually leave the scene to the other. Let’s try to generalize this principle to the evolution beyond life by classifying man-made objects into kingdoms and species just like plants and animals. In other words let’s look at both taxonomies, life and objects, as two terrestrial families competing over a single resource, our planet. It will appear that man-made object is taking the playground from the organic life, however, with the transfer of resources shifts also, diversity.
The modern explosion of man-made objects whilst the decline of biodiversity should be viewed as the tale of a shift; Diversity has gradually moved from the tree of life to the product-space.
But there’s a catch in my opinion. And it’s that us humans while catalyzing this transfer, did host it for a short while ourselves! We took it from life, gave it to objects, but had it for a geological moment.
Shift of diversity from life to objects, via humans?
As buildings seize more lands from trees and drones will take more of the sky away from the birds, we need to pay attention that in between these two, “Animals and Artifacts”, there was an intermediate domain for hosting diversity which rose and fell: human culture, as the carrier of novelty.
A one step more detailed story could go like this: One species out of millions unexpectedly dominated the earth and while pushing the rest to die or adapt, diversified itself. It gave rise to an explosion of isolated cultures, languages and life styles; A diversity unseen in any species beforehand. The cycle however did not stop there. Millennia later one or few of those many cultures – under the industrial civilization – eventually pushed all the rest aside and sucked the diversity into its own territory, producing physical artifacts. This is where we are now.
Clearly, many of these cultures didn’t completely die but they were marginalized and can still, at least partially be found in some uncontacted tribes or in the corners of research institutes. But so are nearly extinct animals in zoos and labs. You get the point.
Now, why keeping track of where novelty shifts matters? Well, because a legitimate extrapolation could tell us that nature may as well repeat the cycle over and over again. Just imagine what would happen if evolution, in our era of novelty the age of man-made products, favors yet another front-runner, picks on one or few of these many by-products and eventually rules out the rest totally or marginalizes them to small islands. This is just what we humans did to other species bu putting a handful of not-domesticated animals in our zoos while driving the rest to extinction. And that’s exactly what modern cultures did to the old ones, killing them off or putting fractions of them on shelves in museums. Each winner code did set a new ecological agenda until it dictated the next primary carrier of diversity.
An alternative view of geological “eons”
This is my favorite though an unconventional view of geological eons – for the lack of a better term -, based on their domain of diversity. And if not anything else, it could offer a different angle of what scientists like to do, extrapolation, to possibly give us some alternative understanding about past and the future of our planet. So let’s speculate a bit:
We begin with the past. I don’t know but won’t be surprised if there has been zillions of different types of cells once trying to take off and colonize the earth, but life as we know it has been based upon an eon of “monocell”; an explosion of life forms based on (well, not one, but two or few) types of cells. It’s imaginable, also documented, that during this time, the new eon of “monospecies” has come and gone several times, but eventually we got the recent breakthrough, the dominance of humans and few domesticated species as the foundation for the explosion of human cultures. Now we are experiencing the rise of a “monoculture” (as human culture) and the modern diverse pool of man-made objects is coming eventually out of few inescapable modern human stereotypes, if you have paid attention.
But what is next? “Monoartifact”? And if so, which few products out of millions will declare an its era? In this simplified story, after eukaryoti/prokaryotic cells, human genome and the industrial machinery, there could be only a few man-made objects out of today’s diverse pool, whose greedy winner codes would redefine the future of Earth’s ecosystems. What would they be? And given that, what would be the next territory that shall win mother nature’s focus to host its future diversity? In which domain is the further innovation going to take place?
May be silicon chips, and AI!