One Big Orgainsm
The horrors of nature
Some authors have expressed horror at the evolutionary
process that created us - and expressed the desire to
"escape" from it - usually in some unspecified way.
Prominent among these are Richard Dawkins
- who describes nature as "the ruthlessly
cruel process that gave us all existence", and describes the
process that made us as "wasteful, cruel and low".
He says that nature gave us a brain capable of
"understanding its own provenance, of deploring the moral
implications and of fighting against them".
He describes humanity as: "the only potential island of
refuge from the implications of [evolution]: from the
cruelty, and the clumsy, blundering waste." 
He writes: "We alone on earth can rebel against the tyranny
of the selfish replicators" , and: "We,
that is our brains are separate and independent enough from
our genes to rebel against them. We do so in a small way
every time we use contraception. There is no reason we
should not rebel in a large way too." 
Lastly: "The unrefined world of natural selection is not the
sort of world I want to live in." and
"We can leave behind the ruthlessness, the waste, the
callousness of natural selection. Our brains, our language,
our technology make us capable of forward planning.
We can set up new purposes of our own, and among these new
goals can be a complete understanding of the world in which
we live." 
Defeating natural selection
Is what Dawkins talks about remotely possible?
It is certainly clear that individuals can opt out
of the evolutionary process - but that doesn't seem to do
them very much good - and merely creates a world without
their kind in it.
However there is another approach to defeating
natural selection which seems more worthy of
Natural selection relies on competition between
Without such competition it has no variation on
which to act - and it loses the ability to select between
variants - and so it can no longer direct evolution.
So - if the dominant organsms all fused together into one
big organism - then perhaps they would no longer be the
subject of evolutionary forces.
...and perhaps if all life fused together into one big
organism, then perhaps natural selection would completely
come to an end.
The process of evolution seems to be characterised by
building ever more deeply-nested heirarchies of
I have argued elsewhere  that humans and
machines will form composite organisms - that the companies
of today will come to increasingly resemble composite
organisms - with their own inheritance mechanisms.
Similarly, I regard it as possible that whole governments will
also come to play the role of organisms - with companies acting
as their organs.
Today there are already some elements of global cooperation.
There is - in some areas - a global marketplace. While
this is more like an economy than an organism, an economy
could turn into an organism over time.
Alternatively, one very successful dominant organism could
clone itself many times, wipe out its major competitors,
and then deliberately prevent itself fragmenting again -
by using gene sequencing and error detection to eliminate
any mutants at birth.
So - looking at our planet - it seems at least vaguely
possible that it will eventually be occupied by a
single, dominant organism that spans the entire planet.
Monopolies and mergers
In todays environment, while mergers and fusion into ever-
larger bodies have a tendency to happen naturally, there are
organisations dedicated to making sure that things don't gop
so far that competition is eliminated, and a single
I refer here to the monopolies and mergers commission
(called the competition and protection commission in some
locales) - an establishment whose primary function is to
prevent unions from occurring on large scales.
However, there is currently no equivalent to the monopolies
and mergers commission for governments - though there may be
something like one for political parties.
These organisations exist due to a choice of management
strategy that mimics natural selection - by setting up
multiple organisations and allowing them to compete.
Their job is a difficult one - it is challenging to prevent
price fixing and other kinds of cooperative behaviour
between supposedly competing companies.
Such a set up seems unlikely to last indefinitely, due to
its wastefulness and lack of efficiency. Efforts should not
be duplicated. Competitions should mostly be done
under simulation, where failure is less expensive.
The monopolies and mergers commission may have a limited
lifespan - and may wind up being decomissioned as a wasteful
and unnecessary administrative structure.
Selection within organisms
In practice natural selection doesn't just occur
between organisms. It also happens within
organisms - where it's referred to as somatic selection. In
the process of development many more cells are born than
survive - and those that are not needed die or are
So it seems unlikely that natural selection can be
eliminated completely. However, this sort of natural
selection would probably be considered to be not so bad -
and its effects could be contained in a manner that
prevented large-scale competition arising. The cells of an
organism don't mind dying in the service of its
owner. They even deliberately commit suicide so
that other cells have more space and nutrients. There's not
really any suffering involved - and it seems to be the
suffering that is objected to and found to be aesthetically
Selection within the organism need not happen very much.
Some bits of the creature will inevitably die and need
replacing through accidents and wear and tear. However,
such problems could be minimised by using caution.
Selection between components within the organism could be
kept at low levels - and care could be taken to ensure no
errors or variation are introduced.
The end of parasites and symbiotes
For all living organisms to fuse, the dominant
creature would also need to eliminate all its parasites
and symbiotes. Is that remotely feasible?
Wiping out your parasites may be important for an organism
that wants to stop being the subject of natural
Parasites often adapt rapidly to the weaknesses of their
hosts - and they can kill large organisms.
Normally, there's no selection pressure to eliminate
parasites beyond a certain point. When they are at the
level of a minor inconvenience, the threat is hardly worth
defending against. So it seems unlikely that a creature
would normally bother wiping out all its parasites.
However, let's suppose that - for some reason - the creature
decided to make this its mission in life - perhaps in order
to ensure its future security.
The experience we have with creating engineered complex
systems suggests that any complex organism is likely to be
prone to parasite infections - and that eliminating them is
very challenging - and while we have had some successes we
are still nowhere near wiping out the parasites of our own
However, it doesn't seem logically impossible.
Maybe - with sufficient effort and application -
perhaps the dominant creature could succeed in
eliminating all its parasites.
Symbionts may also present a danger. Unless their germ line
is carefully controlled, their evolution may run the risk or
rivalling or outstripping the dominant organism. An
organism wanting to end natural selection completely would
probably be likely to put a stop to it in its symbionts as
well - or at least severely control and restrict their
possibilities for evolution.
The historical growth of human civilisations strongly
suggests that at some point a world government will be
This is what will become the most likely candidate for the
single large organism that may stand a chance of putting an
end (at least temporarily) to natural selection on the
It would develop one or more large brains, perhaps located
in industrial centres. A global immune system would form -
perhaps an outgrowth of today's hospital network.
One world is an old dream. However, as a matter of fact, that
there is more than one world.
In particular our solar system has multiple worlds in it -
and it seems likely that life will visit them.
Similarly, there are multiple stars in the galaxy - and it
seems likely that many of them too will in the future also
Can the idea of nature as one large organism
possibly survive being physically divided by such
large distances and such impressive physical barriers?
Ants in a nest can survive some degree of physical
separation - while still remaining functionally united as a
Perhaps even unification in the face of such large
distances can't totally be ruled out.
Maybe one day - in the far distant future - the
whole universe will be filled with a single
It could call itself "The Winner".
After the race is over
What force would then drive the resulting complex system?
Self-directed "mutations" would probably determine the
course of the system after that point.
There would be no particularly obvious motivation towards
self-improvement any more.
The organism could literally do as it liked - without fear
that some other organism would eat its lunch - at least as
long as it was fairly confident that it really was
The respite might last until the organism dissolved into
separate components again - and they began to compete with
one another once more.
Nick Bostrom has written about the possibility of
large-scale fusion of organisms that eliminstes natural
He refers to what I call 'one big organism' as being a 'singleton'.
He has written some essays on the subject. One is entitled
What is a Singleton?  and another is called
The Future of Human Evolution .
- Richard Dawkins - A Devil's Chaplain (the essay)
- Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene (Ch.11 and endnotes)
- Richard Dawkins - The Big Question: Why are we here?
- Tim Tyler - The New Organisms
- Nick Bostrom - What is a Singleton?
- Nick Bostrom - The Future of Human Evolution