I interviewed two founders of an Iphone application called Woofound. Woofound is a visual personality game that learns about users preferences and then matches users to local places based on those preferences (e.g. restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, kayaking and much more). Woofound provides a great example of an evolutionary process. How does it do that? First, it is important to note that evolution is not just about biological change as described (in a publication) written by archaeologists (Jan Apel & Kim Darmark) concerned with the evolution of artifacts:
"It has been pointed out that biological evolution may be just one of several special cases of a more general evolutionary theory (Campbell 1974; Runciman 2005:3) and according to this idea evolution is not constricted to living organisms. The evolution of any phenomenon can from this point of view be regarded as a temporal change in an ensemble of elements. The individual elements in the ensemble can be physical objects like organisms or different elements of artefacts or properties like size or chemical composition or syntactic structure (Fracchia & Lewontin 1999:60)."
As a generalized theory, evolution requires the following ingredients: 1) Heritable variation and 2) Selection
When playing the personality game, users are given images associated with certain activities such as two people playing tennis, a juicy looking burger, or an opera singer. With each picture you are given two options to select from “Me or Not Me “confirming that you either like or dislike the activity.
After selecting from at least 30 different images, the Woofound app will match your responses to a list of local activities that will serve your preferences. Can you see the evolutionary process? Let me break it down. First, Woofound provides the user with options to select from (because these options are stored they can be considered heritable variation). Second, some options are better than others based on the users preferences (this is selection in action). Lastly, Woofound stores your game play history so that it can revise the places they match you with based on your feedback (an adaptive process in its own right).
Is this a silly analogy or a real process of evolution? I’ll let you be the judge.
Finally, If you have an Iphone use Woofound to satisfy your preferences, support local businesses, and especially to learn about evolution.
Listen to my podcast with founders of Woofound Dan Sines and Josh Spears: