I think adaptations are best understood as a kind of technology, learned with our genes rather than our minds. The nerve cell is a technology, enabling rapid communication across communities of trillions of other cells. Hemoglobin is a technology. Multicellularity is a technology.
The mistake is maybe in assuming technological advance is monotonic. In the Polynesian diaspora, the bow and arrow was lost (probably due to island bottleneck effects). To appropriate a quote: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice".
In both evolution and human technology, the arc is long and winding but it empirically bends towards greater complexity & capacity. You basically have to cover your eyes to claim otherwise.
Does it? The cockroach is more highly evolved than the human (many more iterations) and is quite well adapted, but does it exhibit "greater complexity & capacity"?
The human hair louse can only live on humans and is a different species from the human pubic louse (which can also only live on humans): do you consider this increased complexity and capacity?
That arc bends towards increased fitness in a given ecological/economic niche, but no more than that.
We went from single-cell -> multi-cell. Has the reverse ever happened? Maybe "fitness in a given ecological niche" is linked to complexity in some deep way.
I'm not sure how to define complexity. It isn't obvious that humans are "more complex" than cockroaches but it does seem obvious that humans and cockroaches are more complex than viruses and that life has become more complex over the last few billion years.
> Their discovery and subsequent characterization has triggered some debate concerning the evolutionary origins of giant viruses. The two main hypotheses for their origin are that either they evolved from small viruses, picking up DNA from host organisms, or that they evolved from very complicated organisms into the current form which is not self-sufficient for reproduction. What sort of complicated organism giant viruses might have diverged from is also a topic of debate. One proposal is that the origin point actually represents a fourth domain of life, but this is not universally accepted
Evolution does clearly bend on the direction of inter-generational adaptability and evolution speed. Technology clearly bends on the direction of capacity. Both do those because there is a very simple selection rule applied to them.
> The proteins in a cell form complex organelles, each with a specific role to play in the functioning of the cell. The cells in your body each specialize to constitute a complex, conscious organism. Likewise, you are part of a complicated social and technological network. And just as the cell doesn’t ask the proteins what they think of their functions, our human ecosystem doesn’t care much what we think about it’s operation. As technology creates more and more refined models of the human body and mind we will find ourselves slotted more and more tightly into roles so the whole machine can operate more efficiently.
Or does it just bend towards the survivability and spreadability of ideas and organisms?
What if a resilient society is also one which is really good at making its members feel alienated and desperate so that they'll join the legions? That society would be able to use that army to dominate the bodies of the Thracians and use Thracian slaves to build resilient physical structures which moved water and wheat to feed the desperate members of the society.
For a deeper exploration of this, I recommend the essay https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/