The New Organisms

The New Replicators

The new replicators are already here, of course - and they are doing spectacularly well. They have their own phenotypes, but these are usually not on the same scale as that of the current dominant organisms.

The New Organisms

It has long been a matter of speculation what form the immediate descendants of human beings will take initially.

I will be suggesting here that one of the most promising candidates for the form of our most immediate descants is a class of organisations currently known as "companies".

Companies as organisms

Today's companies share many of the features of organisms.

Companies reproduce. They produce new copies of themselves that survive in different locations.

They have a genome - in the form of their business logic - which copies itself into the new branches of the company.

The new company premises often vary from the "parent" that gave rise to them - the offspring are rarely identical clones.

Often companies have sex with other They take "genetic" elements from other companies and incorporate them into themselves.

Companies eat one another - taking not just busingees information but resources and territory from other companies.

Companies also have functions analogous to metabolism, growth, eating, and excreting - and they generally have clear physical boundaries.

Companies undergo natural selection. They die. They enjoy differential growth and reproductive success.

In general, they share many attributes with living organisms.


There are some systematic differences as well.

Companies evolve by a process involving directed mutation, design, and planning.

Organisms have not employed such strategies much - historically speaking.

Companies are usually composite - in that they are typically composed of other organisms.

Of course most large organsims are composite. For example, some 90% of the cells in the human body do not contain any human DNA - rather they are bacteria.

Ant analogy

The composite nature of companies means that they are rather similar to a body being composed of cells - or to an ant's nest - composed mainly of workers.

One difference is that the humans within companies are themselves fertile organisms - capable of becoming ancestors without their company's assistance.

This means that a company's human workers are fundamentally less harmonious than somatic cells and worker ants. They waste time engaging in reproductive competitions, damage one another in fights over mates - and generally are less efficient workers.

In particular, workers can typically - at any point - leave the company and go and work for someone else.

Companies can try damage limitation by contractual means - but they face a difficult problem - they have no easy way of making their employees completely dependent on them.


There are a variety of ways of dealing with these problems.

  • Dominance heirarchies and threat displays are used to resolve conflicts without actual fighting.

  • Threats, drugs or environmental control can be used by the leaders to control the behaviour of workers. Farming would be an example of this - and it is also how we endeavour to control our gut bacteria.

  • Reproductive control can be employed. This takes the reproductive process out of the hands of the workers - and gives control to the leaders. This is the mechanism used to control our mitochondria. They are allowed to reproduce - but only when their host cell reproduces. This synchronises the two germ lines involved - and hopefully prevents most sorts of conflict.

  • Sterilization is the most extreme - but also the most effective method. The workers must cooperate with their reproductive kin - it is the only hope they have of helping their genes achieve immortality.

Sterile workers

Frequently, nature's solution to this problem is to create a sterile worker caste.

The best-known organisms that have adopted this strategy are ants, bees, wasps and the Portuguese man-o-war - but it is also important to recongnise that most multi-cellular creatures have adopted this stratgey. Sometimes "vegetative reproduction" is permitted - but often somatic cells are sterile.

Worker organisms are related to their reproductive companions in some way - but are normally unable to reproduce themselves - they are totally dependent on the colony for reproductive success.

Of course many companies already contain large numbers of "cloned" objects. Typically, these are not organisms - rather they are machines. These are manufactured to the same specification to allow uniform scaling, parallel operation and easy management.

It seems likely that organisms will also be manufactured en-masse in this manner, by companies in the future.

Currently such manufacturing of organisms is largely confined to bacteria - and the like.

As time passes, it will make sense for them to extend this sort of manufacturing to higher organisms.

Sterilisation results in loyalty more effectively than any drug or contract can manage. It is a solution which has repeatedly been adopted by nature when facing the problem of how to ensure cooperation among teams of organisms.

Beyond companies: governments

The next highest level of organisation above "companies" is normally "governments".

It is not to the benefit of governments for companies within their boundaries to be able to enjoy unrestricted reproduction either. This leads to conflict between the companies - where there should be harmony.

Governments currently have a variety of tactics they can used in attempts to prevent competion between companies:

  • Patents can be awarded to companies. These deter other compaines from competing with the patent holders.

  • Copyright is used in a similar manner - to grant monopolies over information to selected agents, and prevent others from competing with them.

  • Laws governing corporate behaviour are also employed - to make sure that any conflicts that do occur are relatively fair - and don't cause too much collateral damage to the rest of society.

My assessment of these methods is that they are miserably ineffective at preventing harmful conflicts between companies within governments.

Governments are in economic competition with one another. Those governments that operate most efficiently will eventually come to dominate.

Over a period of time, governments can be expected to eventually succeed in quelling the friction within their borders - using the same strategy that the companies themselves used - controlling the reproduction of their constituent parts - and probably eventually sterilising them.

Individual company reproduction will first be regulated and controlled - and eventually company growth and reproduction will be wholly under governmental control.

Companies will eventually come to play the same role within governments as organs play within the body. In a similar manner, individual humans are analogous to cells within those organs.

As these higher levels of organisation are exposed to evolution and selection, harmony and cooperation between companies within governments - and between individuals within companies will increase - in much the same way as cooperation between organs and cooperation between somatic cells have come to dominate inside animal bodies.

Beyond governments

In principle there are still higher levels of organisation beyond governments. The next most obvious level above them is that of planets.

However the operations I am describing depend on natural selection acting between multpile units of each type. If there is only one planet with governments on it, such natural selection is not likely to happen.

Even if multiple planets come to bear life, natural selection between planets is likely to be rather slow - due to comparatively slow reproduction rates.

Consequently, adaptations on the scale of planetary organisms may take some time to arise.


Not everyone seems to regard the new organisms positively.

One of those who forsaw their coming existence was W.D.Hamilton.

Hamilton regarded cloning and collaboration - in part - as the consequences of the conquering of disease - and the subsequent lack of selection for sex.

He wrote:

But the question for us as individuals is: do we want our descendants to become like the cells of organs, organs which in turn comprise some larger entity - that is, totally dependent on the functioning of our civilised system as a whole, mere cogs in wheels? Is it inevitably to this end that the human pattern, like the metazoan and the social insect patterns before it, had to evolve? Lastly, if we should not want to evolved this way, are we still able to haltthe trend that is already in progress, and if so how?

- W. D. Hamilton - Narrow Roads of Gene Land: Vol 2: Evolution of Sex, page 407.

Hamilton doesn't answer his own questions - but the "mere cogs in wheels" phrase suggests he is uneasy with this outcome - and regards it as less than welcome.

In my opinion, the main hope for those who would avoid the new cellularity lies in individuals becoming the new organisms.

This path would necessarily involve cyborgdom and life extension techniques.

The path doesn't seem very realistic to me - the advantages offered by cooperation with others are too strong.


The observant will notice that the scenarios I am describing would represent the end of capitalism within the countries in question.

From an evolutionary perspective, capitalism can be seen as analogous to the anarchic state that exists where cells and organs are engaged in continuous conflict with their neighbours. In a similar manner to the way such situations are eliminated when cells come together to form multi- cellular organisms, so nature will eliminate competition between individuals within companies - and between companies within governments.

Natural selection is often cited as one of the models capitalist systems derive their inspiration from.

I'm suggesting rather the opposite here - there's good evidence from biology that the organisation of companies within governments will ultimately involve harmony - rather than competition.


  1. Ken Kelly - Out Of Control

  2. W. D. Hamilton - Narrow Roads of Gene Land: Vol 1: Evolution of Social Behaviour

  3. W. D. Hamilton - Narrow Roads of Gene Land: Vol 2: Evolution of Sex

  4. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - The Communist Manifesto - 1848

  5. Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations - 1776

Tim Tyler | |