Erwin, Douglas H.

Collective integration and processing of information have increased through the history of life, through both the formation of aggregates in which the entities may have very different properties and which jointly coarse-grained environmental variables (ranging from widely varying metabolism in microbial consortia to the ecological diversity of species on reefs) and through collectives of similar entities (such as cells within an organism or social groups). Such increases have been implicated in significant transitions in the history of life, including aspects of the origin of life, the generation of pangenomes among microbes and microbial communities such as stromatolites, multicellularity and social insects. This contribution provides a preliminary overview of the dominant modes of collective information processing in the history of life, their phylogenetic distribution and extent of convergence, and the effects of new modes for integrating and acting upon information on the tempo of evolutionary change.