Feedback and Micro-Evolution

Almost a year ago, our family got our first pet. I never grew up with a dog, and this was a new experience for my wife and I (not to mention our two daughters). Sophie is a now 1 y/old terrier mix, half Yorkie and half Cairn. She is now fully grown at a year, weighing in at about 11-12 pounds. She is very fast. In a fenced in yard my daughters took more than 20 minutes to catch her when she’d grabbed a small thing they thought she shouldn’t have.

What does this have to do with evolutionary feedback. Well, one of the most amazing things she does is, I suppose, the result of that. When we go for a walk or a fast jog, she often runs alongside me at 8-10 mph for a block or two. While she is doing this her nose is sniffing for scents continually, with her snozzle running along the sidewalk what looks like 1/2 inch from the concrete. What I find hard to imagine is how, over irregular ground an animal weighing in at 11 pounds measuring less than a foot at the shoulder can run that fast with their nose (!) a centimeter above rough concrete. I mean, if you mis-judge that distance and your nose collides with the ground that’s going to hurt (and send you flipping in somersaults). Yet it never has occured.

Animals that can’t hold scan the ground well, don’t find food. Those that misjudge the distance scrape their snozzles and get really embarassed doing flips inadvertently. This isn’t a skill practiced and learned. It is innate. Evolution in action.

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  1. It’s always humbling as a computer scientist to see that the dumbest insect is lightyears beyond what we can mimic with AI in pretty much every domain.