Does AGI Require Replicators?

This is a guest post by Kitt Johnson.


Creativity = The process by which people create OUR kind of knowledge – e.g. explanations.

AGI = The physical ‘object’ which people are and which includes creativity, internal experiences of consciousness, but also implementation details etc.

The purpose of this piece is too elaborate on a twitter discussion that started here. In short, the hope is to start a discussion about the similarities or lack thereof between Neo-Darwinian Evolution and the creativity of people. At what level of abstraction do similarities exist, is thinking of creativity as neo-darwinian the right approach and what sorts of processes and interactions constitute creativity?

Creativity is a form of evolution and therefore, any AGIs of the universal and explanatory variety will incorporate some kind of evolutionary process. As of yet, this process is unknown, but we can still ask questions and criticize the apparent similarities which may or may not exist between biological evolution and creativity. 

In Neo-Darwinian Evolution (NDE), genes appear as the fundamental unit of selection. The differential survival of genes registers as replicas appearing in a population at higher frequencies than variants. Those replicas which have survived, have done so because of the information they contain and the environmental context they were adapted to. The environmental context any particular set of identical replicators is instantiated within is approximately similar, but always with some degree of variance. The variance between similar environments is always small enough for those replicators to propagate themselves reliably – otherwise, that environment is no longer suitable. As such, any single copy of a gene will have the same survival capacity as any other copy, given there are no differences between them.

With that being said, I’d like to posit that replicators do not seem to be a fundamental consequence of biological evolution itself, but rather a physical consequence of thermodynamic processes which favor self-replication as a strategy for dissipating an increasing amount of energy over time. NDE is blind, and if the thermodynamic claim of self-replication is correct, it is unlikely that replicators themselves are core to a fundamental understanding of evolution. Replicators may instantiate knowledge within an environment in a ‘hard-to-vary’/robust way – via their proliferation -, but they don’t explain why any particular gene is there in the first place, nor what it is about those genes which caused them to remain instantiated.

Noting the above, why should we expect replicators to be part of our theory of creativity (+ AGI) within a single mind? (Side note: I don’t deny replication happens between people, but besides from specific social tasks which are defined in such a way as to include more than one person, I don’t understand why more than one copy would be required within the particular environment of a single mind)

I think that if replicators happen to be within human minds, they won’t be entities that exist at the level of explanation which accounts for creativity but will be an issue of implementation. For instance, it’s common to use the same unit of knowledge in different contexts, but those contexts don’t require extra copies. It’s possible to have a single copy within a mind, and that copy is referenced in the contexts in which it is a suitable solution. To implement such referencing, it would be possible to model the multiple relations between each unit of knowledge on a graph. The edges being the knowledge and the vertices as an infinite number of possible relations between them. So, in the best case, having replicators is a preference, but even so, we should avoid complicating our theories and not multiply entities within our explanations.

The last point is fairly mundane, but I think it’s important not to hew our theory of creativity in the shape of NDE. In doing so, we may accidentally incorporate non-relevant aspects of it and fail to think of necessary new aspects. For example, blind variation and naturally selective type processes occur without any feedback on the process itself – except within the environment (see niche construction) – and that which generates variation does not do so in a better way. Unlike NDE, minds have an ‘awareness’ – conscious – of their own errors, and those errors are not just ‘lost’ forever to time, but appear in our thinking as launching pads to better ideas.


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