Notes on Filkovsky's approaches to tracing technological evolution

Y. B. Karasik
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada
e-mail: karasik@sympatico.ca

  1. It would be nice, of course, to trace evolution of technical systems in the same way as evolution of species. Unfortunately it is impossible (see "On Three Approaches to Tracing Technological evolution" for explanation). And the anecdote about a person searching for the lost key near the light pole does not make impossible possible.

    To me the analogy is incomplete. That person could use a search light to look for the key in the areas not illuminated by the light pole. However, for the purpose of finding the non-documented steps in a system's evolution, such a magic search light is unknown and Filkovsky does not explain how to build it.

  2. Suppose that species A evolved from species B. Suppose that both of them have limbs. Could it be that limbs of species A evolved not from limbs of species B but from some other organ, say, eyes or liver ? Filkovsky claims that it is possible. To him limbs of B could evolve into heart of A (or disappear completely), and kidneys of B could evolve into new limbs of A.

    Indeed, he writes: "in actual biological evolution an organic system usually evolves from other system, which used to perform a function different from the current systemís function. This other system gets gradually modified and on some stage starts to perform the current function."

    I am unaware of examples of such biological evolution. If somebody knows, please drop me a line.

    If there are no such examples, then one who wants to liken technical systems to biological species has to assume that jet engine should have evolved from propeller engine. Since this seems to not be the case, there is no choice as to conclude that technical systems are not like biological ones.

  3. Filkovsky instead likens not individual technical systems to species but the entire world of technology. All technical systems (past, present, and just existing on the paper) are like one biological species to him. He claims that this analogy explains transfer of technical solution from one system to another, but does not elaborate on the explanation.

    In the absence of the latter, I do not see how likening of the entire world of technology to just one species can explain transfer of technical solutions. Is there transfer of bio inventions within one species ? Or by transfer is it again meant evolution of legs into brains and stomach into arms ?