Does 'evolution' means 'upgrade' ? 'downgrade' or just 'gradient'?

3 Answers 3


I wouldn't associate evolution with upgrade or downgrade specifically, since it means:

a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state

In other word, it changes its state (up or down). Evolution is not linked to a particular trend. As such, evolution is more closely related to "gradient", even though the former is about the process, the latter about the value.

Note: you can find a loose association between those terms (evolution vs. downgrade or upgrade) in the software field, where a soft evolution usually means upgrading to the next version.

John Y says in the comments:

Your quote (which appears to be definition 2c(1) from Merriam-Webster) does imply that the change is both continuous and "positive" (either beneficial or more advanced)

True. But "positive" doesn't mean just "beneficial" or "more advanced".

If the evolution of graphic cards noise level is one of a growth (a positive increase of decibel levels), I wouldn't equate "evolution" to an "upgrade", but rather a "downgrade" in "noise pollution".

  • 1
    though as per your citation, there is a clear "up"-grade implied. Lower -> higher, simpler -> more complex, worse -> better.
    – Suvrit
    Jan 2, 2011 at 12:01
  • @Suvrit: I thought my citation illustrated the variety of trends an evolution could adopt: you can evolve from higher to lower: "the evolution of graphic cards noise has been, for some models, from higher decibels to lower decibels".
    – VonC
    Jan 2, 2011 at 14:49
  • Yes, the variety, but all of them have the notion of "up" in them, which is what I was pointing out. Of course, the keyword in your citation is not only "up" but also "continuous", because with the said continuity, it is not really evolution. :-)
    – Suvrit
    Jan 2, 2011 at 14:52
  • @Suvrit: I am not sure why an evolution cannot be a "continuous" one (is an evolution only a discrete one?). Also, I don't see the relation between "more high" to "more low" with "up"grade. If I say the reverse and graphic card models go from lower noise to higher noise, this is clearly a downgrade (in noise pollution) to me ;)
    – VonC
    Jan 2, 2011 at 15:01
  • Sorry, sorry, in my rapidity I typed "with the said" instead of "without the said." I'll leave that comment up there to avoid confusing potential readers!
    – Suvrit
    Jan 2, 2011 at 15:58

Usually, evolution implies a gradual or modest upgrade, though it can also refer to any change, especially those that occur through natural processes, or are inevitable through the passage of time.

In the case of "unnatural" evolution (such as the new release of a human-made product), evolution is intended as a definite upgrade, though not a huge one. (If it were huge, it would more likely be called a revolution.)

  • How about the Evolution in n biology? My teacher told me, Evolution is un-directional. wikipedia:This may be misleading, as biological evolution is not strictly a "goal-directed, pre-programmed process" goo.gl/tu5Ag
    – lovespring
    Jan 2, 2011 at 20:52
  • @lovespring: Broadly speaking, there are two components of biological evolution. The first is some kind of ongoing change. These are more-or-less random mutations, and it is true these are not directed. The second component is natural selection, in which the traits which are best suited for survival and reproduction tend to survive and reproduce. There are always exceptions; isolated cases will definitely seem like the adaptations have gotten worse, not better. But the general direction of biological evolution is toward upgrade.
    – John Y
    Jan 3, 2011 at 3:33
  • But the environment is not 'upgrade', maybe just a loop. if evolution is selected by environment, why is it always 'upgrade'?
    – lovespring
    Jan 3, 2011 at 7:47
  • @lovespring: First of all, I didn't say it was always upgrade. But if you measure "up" by wherever the environment is, and the environment changes slower than the feedback loop, then the trend is toward better adaptation to the environment, thus up. If the environment changes faster than the feedback loop, it is hard to tell where up is, and what had seemed like an upgrade before could quickly become a downgrade.
    – John Y
    Jan 4, 2011 at 5:26

I would say evolution means adaption, since it is unbiassed. The concept I have learned is that whenever the environment changes the organisms need to adapt using the mechanisms of mutation and selection (survival of the fittest). This could mean an upgrade as well as a downgrade of 'features'. Please consider that 'features' like creativity or intelligence do not prevent us from destroying the planet, thus evolution may lead into a dead-end.

Although in a non biological context evolution is also used as a synonym for the next generation (technical innovation) which would mean an upgrade but never a downgrade.

  • so, in biological, evolution doesn't mean 'upgrade', but in some other context, evolution means 'upgrade'. is it right?
    – lovespring
    Jan 3, 2011 at 7:44

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