Information in the Biosphere: Biological and Digital Worlds

Michael R. Gillings*, Martin Hilbert, Darrell J. Kemp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Evolution has transformed life through key innovations in information storage and replication, including RNA, DNA, multicellularity, and culture and language. We argue that the carbon-based biosphere has generated a cognitive system (humans) capable of creating technology that will result in a comparable evolutionary transition. Digital information has reached a similar magnitude to information in the biosphere. It increases exponentially, exhibits high-fidelity replication, evolves through differential fitness, is expressed through artificial intelligence (AI), and has facility for virtually limitless recombination. Like previous evolutionary transitions, the potential symbiosis between biological and digital information will reach a critical point where these codes could compete via natural selection. Alternatively, this fusion could create a higher-level superorganism employing a low-conflict division of labor in performing informational tasks. Digital information is accumulating at an exponential rate and could exceed the quantity of DNA-based information. There are biological and social implications arising from our growing fusion with the digital world.The parallels between evolution in the biological and digital worlds need to be explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-189
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

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