Siri, meet Eri (6/21/12)
Posted by wegethealthynow
Getting to Know You
Siri is such a knowledge agent, attached to the Apple brand. The descendant of the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, and then of SRI International, Siri is very much a government offspring. She is sometimes witty – like when you ask her to marry – and sometimes awfully dumb.
But she can learn. She can adapt. And her makers will make her evolve – change ever more adaptively throughout the future. Over a long time Siri may become succeeded by knowledge agents – the holy grail of artificial intelligence, autonomous, thinking forces.
Siri, it’s time to meet Eri. Eri unlike Siri is fully biological and alive. Right now.
And Eri always changes to become more adaptive and and capable of survival.
The E in Eri stands for evolution, the adaptive process that has promoted life on earth.
Humans have evolved from many different life forms. In a recent study, 1.5% of human genes were felt uniquely human. About half were shared with bacteria and viruses.
Surprised? Don’t be. Lots of the machinery of life has been around a very long time. It arrived via what we call “primitive” life forms.
Yet these primitives are anything but simple. And they are remarkably resilient. Recently a group of bacteria have been found in plugs of clay way, way below the Earth’s surface. They’ve been there 86 million years, living off the same small amount of oxygen.
Their metabolism is about 2 million times slower than ours.
They don’t have much opportunity – or need – to evolve.
We do. And we even found a wonderful mechanism to achieve it.
Siri is software. She can be rewritten.
But she cannot change herself.
Living beings can.
Unlike machines that rust, break down and apart, human beings are like much other life on earth – continuously regenerated organisms.
We remake ourselves. We do it fast. We renew ourselves because we must.
For evolution to work well, having a variety of organisms that constantly remake themselves – adapting to their environments – is a fabulous mechanism for success.
And if you regenerate quickly you can adapt quickly.
Take the human immune system. If it did not work exceedingly well we would all be dead.
Very quickly dead.
That’s because there are innumerable bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, mycoplasma, fungi and prions – among others – that can attack us and kill us.
They don’t in part because our immune system gets rid of them or controls them – even co-opts them into being part of us, like the 100 trillion, generally friendly bacteria in our gut.
One way we accomplish our immense immune duties is through a very fast regenerative process – somatic hypermutation.
When the immune system sees a bacteria it does not know – or just anything it recognizes as different from our genetic material – it makes new antibodies.
The antibodies are produced by forcibly mutating the production of innumerable different protein components. Millions of different combinations of proteins are pushed through.
Hopefully some of them stick.
Somatic hypermutation – creation of millions of different, new antibodies – is literally forced evolution. We rapidly and powerfully evolve millions of new molecules so that we can survive and modify attacks by hostile organisms and pathogenic chemicals.
Evolution is not just a process that occurs over billions of years. It’s occurring right now – in you.
So if people ask you why you believe in evolution, ask them a simple question – how would they survive if their own body did not practice it? How would they fight off infection?
And with every new antibody, new information is created, and with it knowledge – useful information.
Like what antibodies work in preventing that rapidly evolving hepatitis B virus from killing you.
The last part of Eri is information – the literal stuff of the universe. Information is stuff that changes other stuff. Information is the basic building blocks of biology, chemistry, and physics. Molecules are information – every bit as much as books and articles are.
In order to evolve you need repositories of information. DNA molecules do nicely. So do all the other things they help produce – like your brain.
With a constant flow of information, bodies and minds can be updated, reconfigured and rewired.
Which is exactly what they do. Most of you has been replaced within a few weeks.
The new information that flows inside us – produced by everything you do – is then used to remake and renew you.
Which means to regenerate you. That helps you evolve – and adaptively change to your new environment.
Which includes among many other things new pathogens – bugs of all descriptions. New people. New work conditions. .
You are always updated, reworked, and regenerated. You do that by taking in new information to fix, rebuild and rework your body and brain.
Which has already changed since you read the last sentence.
The information is used to regenerate you, to make you more adaptive to whatever you fill face.
So evolution has used your body’s processes of regeneration to help remake you every moment. And the information you receive and create makes you change, move, adapt and survive.
So meet Eri – evolution, regeneration, and information. She’s an embodiment of you – and everyone you know that’s living.
She’s a lot smarter than Siri, and a lot more fun to work with. She adapts, changes, regenerates and remakes herself all the time.
And you get to choose a lot about how your regeneration progresses.
Siri is a knowledge navigator, but you’re a knowledge agent. No machine can match what you do.
Or regenerate as well.
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Posted on June 21, 2012, in American healthcare, Nature, regeneration, Staying healthy and tagged computer science, evolution, immunity, information, longevity, regeneration, Siri, somatic hypermutation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.