Digital Darwinism and Its Real-World Effects

July 16, 2023
David Sunnyside

The appearance of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection constituted one of the most important scientific revolutions in history. But over the 150 years since then, a number of scholars, scientists and pundits have claimed that Darwinism did more than revolutionize biology; it had cultural and economic consequences as well. These alleged effects can be grouped into a few broad categories: economic, political, medical, eugenic, educational, and religious.

The alleged economic implications of Darwinism are perhaps the best known. They imply that the marketplace, like the economy of nature, efficiently sorts the fit from the unfit, and that free market capitalism is thus the best system for organizing society. This argument has been used as a rationalization for laissez-faire capitalism and, more generally, conservative political philosophy.

But there are problems with this argument, which is based on the assumption that the biological and the economic systems are similar in some ways. In fact, the opposite is true. The biological system is an extremely complex, interconnected network that has evolved over millennia. Large changes to it are likely to have unintended consequences; while they might improve x, they might worsen y and z. Only small, gradual change can succeed in this system.

In the economic sphere, technological progress often results in the evolution of consumer behavior and market dynamics. This phenomenon is sometimes called digital Darwinism, and it has real-world effects. It is a process that sweeps some companies aside and allows others to secure a dominant market position. It also requires many established enterprises to adopt new technologies and business models quickly or risk being left behind.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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