Question

It’s always survival of the fittest, but what does fit mean?

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Evolution is always about survival of the fittest; what can change profoundly is the nature of the “landscape” within which “fitness” is measured. Evolution is often about simultaneous integration across many levels of such landscapes. That seems to be the case for humans as a species.

If we are in conditions where there is genuinely enough for everyone, then cooperation delivers the best outcomes, and we can be the most profoundly cooperative species, many levels more cooperative than simplistic genetic assumptions of relatedness would indicate, even deeply past what naive cultural understandings would indicate. If we face genuine scarcity and need to compete within our groups for survival, then we can be the most competitive species on the planet.

Each and every one of us carries both sets of contextual responses at many different levels.
Everything depends on context.  Morality can be considered one of the higher levels of such contexts. It is the nature of the context that defines the “fitness landscape” and what the term “fittest” means—and it can mean many different things all at the same time. And ultimately, it all comes back to the survival of something, long term, across all the contexts encountered over deep time; be it genetic, mimetic, something beyond either, or any combination thereof.

The context of market values is fundamentally based in scarcity. Fully automated systems allow us to generate profound universal abundance of an exponentially increasing set of goods and services. These two facts are now in direct opposition to each other, and our survival as a species hinges on the sorts of levels of “fitness landscape” we consciously create and choose. Indefinite life extension and fully automated distributed production offer solutions to the highest level problems of games theory that are not commonly considered. Markets force us into competition and scarcity, which delivers profound insecurity in the long term.

We have other options. We have technologies that allow us to choose abundance and cooperation. And games theory is clear that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to cheating strategies (all levels). Secondary strategies are required for stability. There will always be something of a strategic evolutionary arms race, expanding into an infinite set of infinite strategic spaces. And with modern communications and modern distributed trust networks, the response to cheating can be very quick, and the cost sufficiently high. And there can be no absolute guarantees, and thus the price of liberty is likely to always remain “Eternal Vigilance.”

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