Went on vacation, recently, mountain biking in Colorado.
was had by all, and Susan certainly expanded her biking
My friends Than and Chris recently embarked on their
circling year-long tour. I'm green with envy...I've been
wanting to do something similar in spirit for around 10
years now, and I'm pretty sure that it was a conversation on
the very topic that was the catalyst for Chris to strike up
the deal with Than. I was invited, but always felt my own
year-long wanderlust was best stomped alone, so I declined.
They will have a great
time, I'm certain.
As a small concession, I decided I'd at least start in
opposite direction. Perhaps we can say hello along the way.
I noticed some interesting commentary in Paul's diary
engineering. Most of his concerns seem to be centered around
the interaction of genetically enhanced species
with the "natural" world. This is certainly a valid concern,
and experimental tweakers should always keep that in mind.
However, I believe evolution is not, by definition,
Evolution has blind spots. Perhaps divergent paths
is a better description. Certain paths, once embarked upon
by evoloution within a particular species branch, will
likely not switch to a new branch after a certain degree of
complexity has evolved. A great example of this is the
retina. Mammals have blind spots over the optic nerve since
the nerve bundle distributes on the inner surface
of the retina. Squid, on the other hand, have no blind spot
since their optic nerve splays on the outer surface of the
orb, achieving full coverage over that portion of the
Obviously, mammalian brains are great at compensating
their blind spots, but it is clear that there is a better
solution that, at least in this case, has been demonstrated
by another branch of evolution. The odds of any mammal
leaping to that branch of occular evolution via mutation are
slim to non-existant, because a) complexity has defined the
bounds of the problem, and b) compensation in other areas
(the mammalian visual cortex) have largely negated any
evolutionary advantage such a radical mutation would
Of course I realize that 'b' offers endless speculation
whether nature ever produces anything "truly superior"
between isolated branches of evolution. This is of course
dependent on context. Using this same example, nobody would
feel the disadvantage during the day. Night, however, is an
entirely different story -- probably everyone here is
familiar with the superiority of peripheral vision when
staring into the darkness.
This is of course expounded upon in great and wondrous
detail in Godel,
Escher, and Bach, where Douglas Hofstadter quite
dramatically illustrates the phenomenon using natural number
theory, courtesty of Godel's brilliant work.
In the Godel nutshell, your derivable truths
limited by your axioms. In a sufficiently complex truth
system, there are provable truths that are
underivable...by definition. And that, of course,
assumes you've defined the right axioms to properly
approach the problem.
Anyway, fascinating topic of conversation. My personal
is that genetic engineering should be approached with
caution and wisdom. There are potentially enormous
benefits to be gained. I believe the radical ones will be
through this "branch hopping" type of modification; a
modification that properly lives somewhere between natural
evolution and contact with alien flora.
The expanded argument could benefit from the nanotech
analogy: somebody will figure it out, so it would
be best to figure it out first if for no other reason than
to be able to properly understand the problem and defend