Peacock Tail=1959 Cadillac Eldorado Tail Fin

During an alcohol fueled discussion on the evolution of the automobile with my friend Roman (who is also willing to discuss whether the ratio of pi is the same in base seven) we got stuck determining what parallels are accurate between a technological process and natural selection-- and whether perhaps a technological process exhibits Lamarckism-- and in the midst of this I stumbled on a super-excellent corollary to the analogy: outrageous tailfins-- which add no "survival" value to an automobile-- tailfins are not a product of typical technological selection of the automobile, where more efficient parts and better performing models are selected and the Edsel becomes extinct, but tailfins are instead a product of sexual selection . . . like the peacock's tail, they don't enable the organism to survive, but actually are detrimental to efficiency and exist solely for attractiveness, and this attractiveness requires more strength and metal and chrome and horsepower to lug the sexually selected trait around, so perhaps the organism with the largest trait is exceptionally fit, just because it can carry the trait around . . . and, similar to the peacock's tail, the evolution of the tailfin took on a life of its own and the tailfin got far larger than necessary, unless you're talking about attracting a mate, and then your traits can never be too big . . . and, of course, there's something aesthetically similar about the peacock's tail and the tailfin which makes me far more pleased than I should be about the fact that as far as the internet is concerned, no one else has ever come up with this analogy (so maybe the parallel doesn't hold water at all and I am insane, but I think this may be in the running for my best idea ever).

2 comments:

zman said...

I respectfully submit that neither form of evolution applies to cars because cars don't reproduce, sexually or otherwise. This technical nit aside, automotive evolution follows a Darwinian model because the car is "born" with whatever traits it has and doesn't acquire new OEM beneficial traits after it's made, so its survival is based on how well-suited it is to the marketplace, not how well it can adapt during its lifetime and then pass those adaptations on to successive generations.

Dave said...

except that if a car is altered and the alteration to the model works, then you can immediately "pass this down" to subsequent models without the messiness of sex-- which is more lamarckian . . . passing on a characteristic acquired during its lifetime instead of passing on static genetic information simply because you survived to reproduce.

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