Tag Archives: DNA

My army is bigger than yours

I’m still processing what I learned last night, by volunteering to give a talk on Intertwingularity at Web Staffordshire, so instead of writing about that, I thought I’d share this version of an observation I originally made elsewhere. I try not to ignore things that might be true, just because they are inconvenient. That was the reason for the talk too.

Hating someone for what they look like is illogical, but disliking someone for what they choose to think is very common.

It may be evolutionary. A genuine threat to our cultural values may be as real as a threat to our DNA, if Richard Dawkins’ meme theory is taken to “it’s logical conclusion” (as I intend to, if I ever finish my ‘book’.) Democracy is humans’ way of deciding which side would be likely to win the battle, as other potentially violent animals do, such as drunk men in pubs. Democracy and violence are expensive to societal cohesion. It’s hard to trust people when you know they think you “ain’t worf it” or they hit your Dad and he goes to prison.

Despite that, the current process of undermining of democracy across Western society, to the advantage of the rich and well-connected, seems likely to bring about some kind of revolution. This is analysis, not a suggestion (or I stole it from Wikipedia’s entry on Marxism.) I’d vote for voting reform; except I can’t (yet.)

I wonder if racism is just stupid people confusing race and culture, like some sort of inherited prejudice. Creedism is clearly the way forward. At least we have that belief in common with the Jihadists.

1-D Upon a Time-line

Warning: Choking danger – may contain small pieces of Physics.

I think most people have difficulty visualising any world with more than three dimensions. I’ve always struggled to think about 1-D.

A football has three dimensions. You can kick it somewhere else, a short time later. A flat piece of paper has two dimensions and a straight line has one, I was told. “Later”, “flat” and “straight” are clearly references to particular ‘higher’ dimensions. Draw a straight line on a flat piece of paper and roll it up then throw it and I have a line in four dimensional space-time. ‘Lower’ dimensions refer to, perhaps are defined by, constraints in ‘higher’ dimensions. As we are not yet capable of switching off time, I’m not convinced the human mind has the necessary hardware to experience one dimension.

I’ve always known intuitively that 1-D was very difficult to isolate. A line is the path an imaginary point might take over time if it was banned from the second and third dimensions, or indeed if we just ignored any movement through those two dimensions. If the line on the piece of paper had instead been an optic fibre on a roll, the light passing down it could still be considered to be in our conventional understanding of one dimension (plus time.) The only way it is possible to observe 1-D would be as a point at a moment in time, though it would have to be an infinitely small light source. We can imagine a set of such points at exactly the same moment in time. Such a line could never be observed by a human. I’d normally blame Heisenberg but I think the ‘infinitely small in all but 1 dimension’ thing has given him a lucky break this time.

I returned to this subject after reading James Gleick’s description in his book ‘The Information’ of Richard Dawkins’ thoughts in ‘The Selfish Gene’ that although we are all familiar with the 3-D double-helix structure of DNA, the information it contains is effectively a bit-stream, like the light in our fibre. If we watch a single firefly, flashing against a jet black night, we are observing the output of the one-upon-a-time dimension. That may be as close as we can get.

1-D is hard for the same reason as 5-D; we have never seen it. We now have the technical capability to construct virtual worlds in more than 3(+Time) Dimensions but we humans don’t have the sensory input equipment necessary to observe them all at once. We may need to take our brains to another dimension, as predicted by ‘The Prodigy’, and Max Romeo before them.

It is left as an exercise for the reader to estimate the size of a bit.


Remoting-in to the Virtual Box

As no-one spoke up yesterday, I’ll assume everyone has accepted the notion that all software runs in a virtual universe, free from the laws of physics. That’s why we don’t need to run software developments like an engineering project. They are not subject to all of the constraints that make engineering hard. We can ‘build the roof first’ and worry about ‘how strong the foundations need to be’ later, when we understand more about the model we have built of our incomplete idea. Like this blog post, Agile products are almost free-floating in a world of our invention, until they need to communicate with people. We are stuck here, interacting with this parallel universe, using our big, heavy ape arms and clumsy interfaces. We drag behind them like tired children.

Did you see the original ‘Tron’ film? Do you remember how the programmers’ personalities were represented by the programs? That was a true story. Programs can be gentle, kind, beautiful but shallow, or bullying ego-maniacs, just like their creators. They can appear to have a certain character while actually being something else entirely. Software reflects aspects of the personalities of it’s creators, as expressed within their self-imposed cultural boundaries.

I think most people reading this will accept that evolution theory is most likely true and that genes carry the necessary code to make new life. I want to propose my own hypothesis. I don’t know if I’ve re-invented an old idea so please tell me if you’ve heard of it before. I think that every form of life has its own culture and that DNA and culture have evolved together in a symbiotic relationships, like a third interlocked spiral. The main difference is the speed at which the invisible cultural strand can change. We may still have the emotional responses of cave dwellers due to our DNA but we can change our political and religious opinions in a day. Every system that survives, protects itself, so we have evolved early-adopters, fashion-victims, people who want to fit in and reactionaries, to quality-check dangerous ideas. As a species we resists change, because change has proved to be really dangerous. At the same time, we constantly strive to try something new because that has been proved to give evolutionary advantage, if you don’t die trying. The variation in the attitude of humans is one of our evolutionary advantages. The two are kept in balance by death of the over adventurous and economic failure of the over-cautious.

“Where’s he going with this?”, you may ask. Well: just as Richard Dawkins put forward the idea that we are carriers of our selfish genes, I’m in turn proposing the idea that selfish us and our selfish genes are carriers of our cultures and that if we can project human culture into software, we can free it, and ourselves from the rules of physics and the constraints of limited resources and thereby, finally, from the drive to be selfish.