Saturday, October 10, 2015

Open Source Genetics

Charles Darwin was the first person to ever use the legal term "inheritance" to describe the passing of (parts of) both parents genomes down to their natural children.

Darwin's unexpectedly smooth success with his theories of Evolution came about because he let the upper class middle class - people like himself - have their cake and eat it too.

His theory reconciled the competing values of social stability versus social mobility, at a time of heightened social instability in Victorian England.

Basically the upper middle class wanted enough social mobility to let their family rise to the top and then enough social stability to let them stay there forever !

On average, the many children of typical Victorian parents who had earned their wealth the hard way, held onto their exalted social position in the second generation merely because of their parents' wealth, rather than through all of them emulating their parents' brains and work ethic.

And this made the Victorian society very uncomfortable.

But now these kids could claim that they had inherited dad's genetic strength in brainpower and work power, not merely his money, and use this to account for their exalted social status.

His genes made them the fittest and it was his genes, not his money, than made their survival at the top of the social scale a inevitable fact of natural law.

To repeat, in the vertical form of genetics as practised by all life but the microbes, Mom and Dad's superior genes were not for global sharing, but for their natural children alone.

Inheritance talk extended to copyrights and patents 

In the same way, any inventions those superior genes might dream up remained their inventor's alone - in the form of copyrights, patents and brand trademarks.

Narrow, vertical inheritance of genes and patents: the genetics and the economics of exclusion.

Those that had power kept right on gaining more power - those who had money kept right on making more money.

A self-replicating aristocracy : gated community genetics : the one percent, the WASPs.

Thinking Like A Macrobe

But in a time of global crisis (say WWII or climate change) relying upon the brains and hard work of just the one percent may be a recipe for global disaster : we need the brains and hard work of all of the other 99%.

So should humans look to Nature, pick between the vertical "gated" genetics of the dinosaurs or the horizontal "open source" genetics of the microbes ?

The 'Appeal to Nature' , the claim that something comes from Nature, to support a human "should" argument, is always intellectually suspect.

Philosophers call this appeal a Fallacy, one of their worst sins in the practise of argumentation.

But if we nevertheless politely insist that we should at least look at the statistical evidence from nearly four billion years of Life on Earth, we can see that statistically, the giant dinosaurs were much much less successful in evolutionary terms than the tiny microbes.

We them must struggle to account for this unexpected result that seemingly refutes the claim that 'Bigger is always Better' and 'God always on the side of the Big Battalions'.

It won't hurt, I argue, for us to see if the very different forms of genetic inheritance between these two types of beings might account for their widely varying success rate in times of global crisis.

A global crisis, I would argue, is not normal - by definition.

Normal, conventional, ways of thinking, normal conventional leaders just can't adapt quick enough or engage deeply enough.


We need to pull in all the oddball ideas from all the oddballs out there - just as the microbes do when crisis and stress makes them deliberately get careless in their DNA copying - suddenly producing lots of totally new mutated genes.

In sufficient numbers, one of those many oddball new genes will produce the needed solution.

Next, the individual microbes release these new genes into the environment for any other microbe to take up, adapt or to pass on in turn to other microbes.

And so forth - its called HGT.

And HGT has let the microbes live almost four billion years here on Earth. 

By contrast, the dinosaurs, like the WASP one percent who run our world today, could only act in times of crisis in the narrow silos of conventional rote.

But truly new ideas come from truly new people.

"Yes, and not our kind of people," sniffs the one percent as they quickly reject these ideas, simply because they came from a woman wearing a niqab.

"Thinking Like A Microbe"

So only the growing Open Source movement, which basically by-passes the mental gatekeeping of the one percent, lets the ideas of the other 99% see the light of day and spread via the internet all around the world, to anyone who can use and improve upon them.

Only by moving to Open Source thinking, only by 'thinking like a microbe', will we solve our environmental crisis and help prevent the sixth mass extinction.

If not, prepare to quickly become the next dinosaurs, Humanity !

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