Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Survival of the Fittest

I hope that's me -- "the fittest", that is. Reporting from Ecuador this week, I've been enjoying swimming in the Pacific ocean. Actually, I probably swam further in the past week than any other previous week. The folks on the beach were looking at me funny when I climbed water-logged from the ocean after my marathon adventures.

It was near here, in the Galapagos Islands, where the Theory of Evolution got its first seeds. Also, that's where so much research has been done on that subject. Recently, scientists have been measuring the sizes of the beaks of every single finch every single year and proving that evolution really is happening.

We're heading to the Galapagos next week, and it got me thinking (what else to do while putting in the big swimming miles) about the whole idea of the survival of the fittest. Seems like lately folks are talking more than usual about the free market and business Darwinism. And the free market may indeed "work", but there are a couple of problems.

First, survival of the fittest is messy. You may end up with the most fit species/business at the particular time. But there is guaranteed to be lots of blood along the way. In nature, lots of individuals die so that the best among them can live. And in business it's the same way -- lots of economic turmoil so that the best businesses can survive.

When reading about the finches, I came upon a second "problem" with evolution. It seems that on one island a few cactus finches (about a dozen) came up with a bit of a shortcut to sipping their nectar. To make their lives easier, they were actually, with a simple snip of the beak, killing the cactus flower just to take a sip.

Now, these individual birds will never pay evolutionarily. They got their dinner. When things get tight later in the year, these may be the same birds who will be strong enough to get what little nectar remains. A tiny subset of the population is actually destroying the food source for all, and the only solution evolution may offer is extinction.

The logical comparison is the businesses that snip humanity's cactus flower. They may, for example, dump tons and tons of CO2 into our atmosphere. There is no incentive for them to stop or slow down, because it would just hurt their bottom lines. The only solution that the free market has to offer is to allow them to destroy the global economy, with the only consolation being that these rogue businesses will go down with the rest of us.

We are smarter than finches. We can see what we are doing, that the actions of a subset are harming the livelihoods of all. So, it seems like it is up to us to come up with a solution. Perhaps we just need to trim the beaks on these metaphorical finches a few millimeters and the problem will take care of itself.

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Blogger Baxter said...

love the article, good work!
I love seeing editorials like this in my local paper, Boulder rocks.

Fri Feb 20, 09:44:00 PM  

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