Figure 1: Extrapolation of the operator hierarchy to future operators (light blue arrows)
The 'replayed tape' metaphor of Gould suggests that random genetic and environmental influences ('contingency') preclude that any rerun of the 'tape of evolution' ever leads to the same outcome. The operator hierarchy adds to this viewpoint that evolution will pass through the same levels of complexity during any re-run of the tape. Viewed this way, and because the levels show an overall regularity, like a periodical system, prediction of evolution becomes possible. This page explains how regularity can be used for the prediction of future operators.

References and more information can be found here:
Extrapolating a hierarchy of building block systems towards future neural network organisms.
Jagers op Akkerhuis, G.A.J.M. (2001). Acta Biotheoretica 49: 171-189.

What is to come after man?

In a 1902 issue of Nature, Wells stated: "This fact that man is not final is the great unmanageable disturbing fact that rises upon us in the scientific discovery of the future, and to my mind at any rate the question what is to come after man is the most persistently fascinating and the most insoluble question in the whole world." When thinking about the future, many people think that evolution will result in humanlike organisms, maybe with bigger brains or other adaptations gained via genetic manipulation. Others foresee bionic adaptations and the arrival of cyborg-like human-machine combinations. This may all happen. What is new about the operator theory is that it adds to predictions the fundament of system transtions and the possibility to look far ahead into the future of evolution.

Extrapolating the operator hierarchy

Assuming that the operator hierarchy correctly ranks and organises the evolution of complexity, its logic can be extrapolated to future operators. Such an extrapolation starts with the memon, which stand for all the multicellular animals possessing a second order closed neural network (groups of groups of neurons) with an interface of sensors. In order to limit speculations, only two predictions are discussed here. The first prediction is that in the far future memic systems will one day reach the multi-state. The multi-state would be an operator, not a population or a colony. In a much nearer future, one may expect the so called softwired memon. The softwired memon shares its closure dimension with the cell: 'structural copying of information'. This implies that it should be capable of copying in a structural way to its offspring all its aquired representations of the world as well as its self-generated insights. Humans can of course educate their offspring, but this does not involve 'structural copying'. To copy insights structurally, a human should be able to acces its brain structure, which implicitly carries all insights. This requires access to all the neurons, their connections and the strengths of their connections. This kind of access demands a technical structure, in which the network topology is programmed, and the memon can access and copy the files in which the data about the neural network structure are stored. This requirement implies that the next step in evolution has to be technical.

What is to come after man

By predicting artificial, programmed neural networks as the next step in evolution, the operator theory offers a scientific context for science fiction, where authors predict 'robots'. Robots, however, are imagined as machines with a human-like design. The predictions of the operator theory are more general and have a totally different basis. They are based on all the operator types that have occurred in evolution so far, from the fundamental particles to humans. Such a general approach opens up ways to be specific about the structural properties of agents that will evolve in the far future. Due to this, the operator theory can offer a new answer to the question what is to come after man. While evolution will proceed, man and other animals with brains will not remain the highest level in evolution. One day, we will have to deal with co-habitation with various forms of technical intelligences. Only the initial forms of these will be man-made.