How do we judge evolution

How do we judge evolution? Or can we? Is it possible to look at threads of change and make qualitative comments on its direction that could potentially alter the next round of variation? In essence, can we modify and alter transformation? Clearly the science fiction genre is rife with this thought. From Mary Shelley and her creation of Frankenstein through contemporary writers, two key questions have been raised – one: can we really affect the speed and direction of evolution and if so what are the results and possible perils? – there are always perils…otherwise there is no movie. Two: given the current trajectory of human development, where will we net out?

Horror movies also love to deal with these questions and, depending on your “edge of your seat and stomach churning” threshold, there are any number of flicks that depict the fear of what evolution gone wrong could create.

Check out some of the clips below that represent books and movies illustrating these points. Please feel free to add more…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8GRQHsAVjI&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5O0dwwLpIs

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1206622/robot_evolution/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2c0dKzMWLE

Moving from the realm of pop culture to the existential – I, personally, have no doubt that the development of our digits and upright form of mobility did not occur so that we could shoot guns better…however, the best source for this thinking is George Orwell and his classic Animal Farm – a tale that for me is near biblical in its impact – here’s the last paragraph:

“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

I still remember the first time I read it and the impact it had on me…anyway so much for evolution….

However, lest you think I have crossed the line into French philosophy (or it may be too late), let me bring this closer to home.

I am really interested in the way ideas evolve; the way technology impacts ideas and the way ideas impact technology – and by ideas I mean “content”: the kind of ideas that get communicated – visually or verbally.

How many times, in the last year alone, have you heard of the latest revolution in thinking? In communications? In marketing? In fact, I have seen so many revolutions I make Trotsky look like a couch potato.

Recently I was struck by this notion and its inherent danger – the danger being limiting real thinking and the true evolution of ideas and technology into ever-better ways to communicate and tell stories.

Newsweek magazine approached 4 design firms (not all actual design firms, as you will see) and asked them how they would approach “refreshing” the brand image of the Republican Party in the United States after the resounding defeat of McCain by Obama.

Each firm submitted its own big idea; Newsweek dutifully printed and posted them; and the firms, of course, did the same on their own blogs. The full picture can be seen here:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/177226

and the blogs can be read here:

http://www.goingsocialnow.com/2009/01/newsweek-features-razorfish-id.html

http://www.thegroop.net/wordpress/?p=215

What I found most interesting and even disturbing was the “big idea submission” by one of the firms that simply used an iPhone with some generic applications and put forth a big idea. They were excited by it. Newsweek thought well enough of it to put it up against some other really big ideas. But to me it was nothing – it was a mere tactic to be deployed that could support any of the other ideas – totally devoid of content with no inherent meaning.

And here is the point – on its own – technology is nothing – some call it revolution, but why is social networking revolution? It is as old as humankind – in fact, maybe as old as the first life forms. AH – but think of the evolution at play here…

Technology that makes our inherent desire to connect more efficient, that is, with a device with form and function that is pleasing and inviting to use – now if you add real reason to share – as in good ideas and worthwhile content – imagine where you can take the whole thing and how your concept might evolve in pursuit of your goal.

So I see no revolution, a lack of evolution, and zero insight – what I do see is pandering to what we don’t actually know – maybe like early human beings worshipping natural phenomena because they didn’t know what caused it.

What really got me going was the following:

“It has become evident that the primary lesson of the study of evolution is that all evolution is coevolution: every organism is evolving in tandem with the organisms around it.”
~Kevin Kelly

Think on this – our job is to have insight into behavior and an understanding of technology. Combine the two – using both art and science – co-evolve and imagine what we can create. In fact, I’d posit that if you read Lester Wunderman’s book – http://www.wunderman.com/lester-wunderman.aspxy – you will see this notion at work in the development and evolution of DM channels and tools. And, if you ask Lester, he will tell you that it is all still evolving.

Having said all of that – I did come across another quote that is disturbing and, in light of the present competitive environment, is actually quite revealing:

“Since when has the world of computer software design been about what people want? This is a simple question of evolution. The day is quickly coming when every knee will bow down to a silicon fist, and you will all beg your binary gods for mercy.”
~Bill Gates

Coevolution………think about it. And, I’d argue strongly – think about your business, and yes – personal relationships. Growing together; evolving together; changing together – is exponential – the final product – by definition – will be way different than if you were working alone.

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