2018/04/10

 

Where is the autonomy when more than half your body is not human?

'"Prof Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist from Caltech, argues: "We don't have just one genome, the genes of our microbiome present essentially a second genome which augment the activity of our own."What makes us human is, in my opinion, the combination of our own DNA, plus the DNA of our gut microbes."' Full news article @ BBC News.

This new understanding of the organization of vertebrates really highlights the external nature of DNA qua Turing tape. Notice that the microbes in us do not strictly reproduce with us; some may, but the majority enters us via the environment---which often explains that certain conditions run in families, and often disappear (or appear) when we leave home. Since some of this microbiome actually controls host behavior (as shown in drosophila experiments), our decision processes (e.g. what we like to eat and mating behavior) can change depending on the external DNA that gets into our guts. So the idea of a self or identity that is self-producing or self-reproducing becomes greatly challenged.

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2018/04/07

 

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete

"When you improve the praxis of science, the dream is that you’ll improve its products, too. Leibniz’s notation, by making it easier to do calculus, expanded the space of what it was possible to think. The grand scientific challenges of our day are as often as not computational puzzles: How to integrate billions of base pairs of genomic data, and 10 times that amount of proteomic data, and historical patient data, and the results of pharmacological screens into a coherent account of how somebody got sick and what to do to make them better? How to make actionable an endless stream of new temperature and precipitation data, and oceanographic and volcanic and seismic data? How to build, and make sense of, a neuron-by-neuron map of a thinking brain? Equipping scientists with computational notebooks, or some evolved form of them, might bring their minds to a level with problems now out of reach."

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