Why Gaia And Daisyworld Don’t Work

There was talk last week in New Scientist about Gaia. Lovelock put forward Daisyworld as a representation of how life on earth could tune its own environment.

Unfortunately the model works only too well as a depiction of Lovelock’s Gaia. I’m not going to write a paper or a book or anything on it, but it’s important to note that all control systems embody meaningful comparison.

Genetic evolution:
Different versions of genes compete in different individuals, where the different versions get different feedback.

Inside the mind:
There are different plans, different concepts, even different schemata for perception, but all result in different outcomes which are compared by the mind.

There is no comparison in Daisyworld because though each daisy might behave differently and make a different contribution to the climate, the effect of each daisy is applied equally to all daisies, and doesn’t give feedback specific to the individual actor.

For this reason, even though Daisyworld could operate for a while nicely once set up, it could never recover from corruption or perturbation. It would eventually decay. It’s doubtful if something like Daisyworld would ever arise in its full version because of lack of specific feedback for specific individual action.

Pity though. Nice idea, and nice bloke. And his other stuff was genuinely good 🙂 . Most of all, a great trailblazing example of a modern independent researcher!

An illustration:

If burning heats up the earth, if I and my people burn less, is that going to help us lot more than those who keep on burning?

Probably not.

Of course it may be that the more people there are on earth, the more burning and heating gets done, causing the total number of people to drop. But in Daisyworld, the number of people burning should decrease.

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