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To change or not to change, that is the question.

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brachiosteve

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Ramble on evolutionary change – why some things seem to (a lot), and others don’t (much/atall). I like the expression, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ (but try telling a motor enthusiast that!).

I have about 300 ring binders where I file things away, along with tens of thousands of clear pockets which I insert into them. When I bought the ring binders, I bought them in bulk. About 100 at the time. I wanted 4 ring clips instead of two, for extra security. I think 3 is popular in the US. A ring binder design is a bit like a mouse trap, pretty much as simple as it comes, so I was safe for future growth if I needed to add more.

A couple of years passed by and I was full, so I ordered some more. And they no longer did that make in the same style. There were 4 major changes. To me - and I suppose anyone else who likes symmetry, when looking at several book cases full of all the same, white ring binders, having the same was important. The rings were now attached on the back of the binder instead of the spine (and they were, ‘D’ shaped, not, ‘O’ shaped). That meant that the rivets (viewed on the outside) were now not visible on the spine when placed on the shelf (next to the other ones that were visible). The clear display spine pocket which you place your written title file name in, on a piece of card, was now thinner and longer and lower down, losing symmetry with the others. There was now, no longer a clear display pocket on the front, to display an A4 sheet. And there was another alteration/update/change – maybe the size or white colour shade? Anyway, for someone with Autism who is a perfectionist and loves order and routine, this was really bad for me.

And the point? Well just that evolutionary change comes in many shapes and sizes, and not all are visual. You’d be surprised at how complex some things can look, yet are relatively simple and not as, ‘advanced’ as other more simple things. There is an ant with a single chromosome, a deer with six. Some plants and protozoans have over 1000, lampreys have 174, hedgehogs have 88-90, whilst we usually have 46. Some species can interbreed with others with a dozen differences in the Chromosome count. So, evolutionary change or advancement is not always so clear. One wonders how finely honed things like sharks, crocs or brachiopods actually are. I don’t think they actually did nothing for so long. Those micro changes might be focussing on strengthening their resilience or adaptation to change or speeding up reactions, hardening body shell, adapting to a new diet or whatever, and very few might be morphologically noticeable, and it is especially difficult to know how much something has changed if the ancestors are long extinct and have left no genetic trace.

The ring binder hypothesis of simplicity (like a mouse trap) is not as clear or simple or unchangeable as it might at first appear. There’s O ring vs D ring, back or spine mount, location/size of spine label, 2, 3 or 4 rings? A hole in the spine or not, material, colour, size, thickness? And there’s so many NEW types of ring binder available nowadays that we either didn’t think of, didn’t need or didn’t have the technology or material for then. So when we see, what we might assume is a very simple or perfectly adapted organism, for the organism itself, there is always room for improvement, no matter how small or meaningless it may seem to outsiders. And those simple things may open doors for additional things. Our own imagination, even with the benefit of speeding things up, using computer re-enactment, can’t predict or show all the combinations of possible solutions evolution can actually produce.

Not sure if change is good or not. It may be good that something can adapt, and quickly. But it might be better if it was resilient enough not to have to, when things change, because of all the things happening when times were slow. Sort of like saving money when times are good, for when times are bad. One wonders how resilient WE actually are? Given our destructive nature, we’re probably not long for this world.

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