I got to know about an organism called "Tardigrade(water bear)" which is an extremely hardy organism and can survive in most conditions.

My question is that if the aim of life in general is to ensure the continuity of the species, why have we not simply stayed as tardigrades? it seems like they are the perfect candidates for survival purposes- ensuring(to a degree) that the species does not get wiped out as easily as dinosaurs.

Does that mean that life has a more different incentive--not to just only survive? or it doesn't have any? Could this be the reason of our incapability to make a superhuman intelligence, because our imitation of learning is to reach a certain objective when life does not have any distinct goal? Or am I missing a key point here?

BTW I am an amateur in Machine Learning where we basically try to mimic the learning of phenomenon of nature through 'evolution'. So I would appreciate answers with minimum of abbreviations and as simple as possible :)

I am overwhelmed by the response I have received but seeing the answers and communincations, I have inferred that my question may be very basic and vague to biologists. The person who can answer would be the one who has studied both subjects(Deep learning and Evolution). But even then I thank you all for devoting you precious time to attend to my question. Cheers! :)

Also I wonder if there is some paradox somewhere here - in Machine Learning when we simulate some environment the agent, just like evolution figures how to survive it. But when more factors are present, the intelligence doesn't increase after a certain point. Could this Thus be that there is something ethereal unexplainable by science (like soul) which actually gives us a more-than-enough complex brain to further increase our intelligence? Or is this a baseless thought?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! Please take the tour and then go through the help pages starting with How to Ask questions effectively on this site. โ€”โ€”โ€” As pointed out by @WYSIWYG this has a strong overlap with an existing question. Furthermore, as currently written this question doesn't really make sense since what counts as "perfection" changes depending on circumstances. Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜Š $\endgroup$ – tyersome Jan 17 '20 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I encourage you to check out some of the online resources available for learning more about evolution. For example, this a useful introduction to evolutionary theory from UC Berkeley. โ€”โ€”โ€” I have also found a relatively accessible and reliable source like Khan Academy is great for starting to learn about a new area. In addition, many textbooks with a good level of detail are also freely available online e.g. from NCBI. $\endgroup$ – tyersome Jan 17 '20 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Just like neural networks are at most analogous to biological brains, evolutionary algorithms are only analogous to biological evolution. Be careful when using one to try to understand the other. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jan 18 '20 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I think you might be the one who has experience in both fields. Neural networks mimic a human brain and their function as they are reasonably intelligent (If you follow-up to the breakthroughs in AI). By simple incentivising them we can develop primitive intelligence. My question inquires into that - Maybe humans don't have an incentive. This maybe the reason we have such complex thought processes $\endgroup$ – neel g Jan 21 '20 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @neelg I do have experience in both fields. I disagree that neural networks mimic a human brain and disagree that they are reasonably intelligent. At best you can make some analogies. Animals definitely have incentives. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jan 21 '20 at 14:53

The key point you're missing is that perfection is a variable, or perhaps more accurately, a function of many variables that depend on environmental factors and the actions of other species. Even tardigrades have evolved a multitude of different species*, suited to different environments and lifestyles. And apparently they don't do all that well in hot water: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56965-z

A creature that evolves to be close to perfection for one set of environmental variables can be seriously mal-adapted to a different set. An albatross, for instance, is very close to perfection - that is, well adapted - to its niche as a creature that flies over oceans, while a dolphin is likewise close to perfection** for an air-breathing creature that lives in that ocean. But either would die in short order in the other's environment, and neither is as well-suited to desert life as a camel.

As for the really unrelated question of why we don't know how to make a "super-intelligence", we don't even know how intelligence actually works, as you should know if you've studied the field. On current evidence, intelligence, at least of the tool-making sort that some humans display, doesn't really seem to be a trait suited to long-term survival.

*About 1150, per Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrade

**So much so that their basic body plans have been repeated throughout evolution: e.g. ichthyosaurs and marine pterosaurs. There are numerous other examples of such convergent evolution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergent_evolution


My question is that if the aim of life in general is to ensure the continuity of the species

That is not the aim of either life or evolution. Rather individuals have the goal of surviving and genes have the aim of replicating themselves. Individuals that survive get a chance to replicate their genes.

As for why all other organisms that are not ceased existing to make room for more Tardigrades, see above points.


I'm sure you understand natural selection. But there are many different forms of evolution (well 4 main ones). One is based on absolute chance. For example dinosaurs were just unlucky when the asteroid struck; it wasn't as if they weren't adapted. This is called gene drift. What I'm trying to get at is that there is less than one variable that affects evolution, leading to variety.

Another example within natural selection; the food chain. We start off with all producers. One producer becomes a consumer by a genetic mutation. The producers aren't reacting to this because they never needed to, so they get picked off one by one until more adapt to either defend or become secondary consumers (consumers that eat the original). There you go; multiple different types of insects, reacting in response to each other. Assuming an unchanging environment and only natural selection is at play, one could predict that they'll end up in an endless loop of evolving from one state to another to react to each other and going back to their original state (though in real life the environment will change preventing this).

As a side note for your coding; you may want to consider changing the environment at random every so often.

In short: you can't reach a single organism due to interference with other animals and other methods of evolution.

Technically; the aim of a being biologically isn't to survive, but for them to reproduce and pass on their genes, hence natural selection; a small but important discrepancy to make, Our incapability to make a superhuman intelligence has got nothing to do with our biology. Humans are able to cast aside anything to do with their natural emotions, hence a computer doesn't take these into account. The reason we can't have a superhuman intelligence is because we simply don't have the knowledge of human psychology, and the technical ability to make one.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with all you statements, but you didn't answer my question on the super-intelligence part....was my assumption a correct one? $\endgroup$ – neel g Jan 17 '20 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ allow me to edit $\endgroup$ – yolo Jan 17 '20 at 18:10

Why evolution do not converge on perfection? I see two main reasons:

First: the "life problem" configuration change in time, so the perfect living being (let's called it global minima) should change over time too. Second: As the "life problem" have several dimensions and the level of complexity is huge, there's no guarantee for the existence of that global minima. All the living organisms then represents near local minima solutions, that evolve over time, like solutions in a evolutionary optimization algorithm.

Why we don't evolve to a superhuman intelligence? I can tell: Who said it doesn't? Maybe in a future there will be super-intelligent-human-like living beings.

One key point is that the intelligence that allow us as a specie to survive and modified our environment do not play against us.


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