[Humanist] 26.560 coevolution?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Dec 9 11:17:00 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 560.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 08 Dec 2012 16:20:04 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: coevolution?

Does anyone here know of a critical study of the term "coevolution",
especially in its migrations beyond biology?

According to Edward McCabe, in his Presidential Address to the American
Society of Human Genetics (American Journal of Human Genetics 86 (2010):
311-15), the first use was in a paper by C. J. Modes in 1958; although
Darwin had the idea, he used the term "coadaptation". Since the middle of
the 20C, "coevolution" as an analogical metaphor has gradually spread to
numerous other disciplines, including computer science. (Try searching the
ACM Digital Library for the term; you'll find abundant use of it.) Bruce
Mazlish, drawing on earlier work by Jerome Bruner, used the idea to describe
the interrelated development of machines and humans in his article "The
Fourth Discontinuity", Technology and Culture 8.1 (1967), later in his book,
The Fourth Discontinuity: the Co-evolution of Humans and Machines (Yale,
1993). Unfortunately in neither place does he look at the idea critically --
nor, as far as I can tell, does anyone else. I want to use the idea, indeed
lean rather heavily on it. But Wendell Piez has just pointed out to me that
its easy acceptance is problematic, so I am worried.

Does anyone here know of such a critical study of the idea, including but
not limited to the interrelated development of living and non-living

Many thanks for any pointers.

Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
(www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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