Re: a to-do list for the next century

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Mar 22 2000 - 23:41:46 MST

On Wednesday, March 22, 2000 12:41 PM Earthlink Bear Account wrote:
>Dear friends-- Following on with my personal obsession right =ow, I'd
>suggest funding for research in the linguistic and neural net bases of
>biological interactions, from the genome on up through brains and on
>to ecosystems. Understanding and predicting how biological systems
>=oordinate, communicate, and translate communications into physiology
>and behavior =s going to be the biggest problem facing us in the life
>sciences in the next century--and it's traditionally been an area of little
>interest and =ven considerable bias.

Greg might like _Evolution as Entropy_ (2/e) by Brooks and Wiley. They use
some linguistics methods in their account of biological evolution. See also
Elisabeth Lloyd's _The Structure and Confirmation of Evolutionary Theory_,
which uses semantic analysis of biological theories. Different approaches,
but similar in many ways, and similar to what Greg is getting at here, I

>Removing the bias (an effort which is =nderway, and proceeding very
>slowly) and then funding research and conferences = on biological
>language systems and cooperative interaction would go a long =ay
>to pushing the science.

Or, to be paranoid, create better ways for us to be marketed and PRed into
following whomever is on top.:/ Sorry, must have been coopted by a Luddite
meme for a second there.:)

>And frankly, we're not going to survive on Mars until we can
>design a = low-energy, stable, and robust ecosystem that
>can support humans for years. We quite =imply do not have
>the theoretical understanding necessary to design such a
>=ystem, and trial and error attempts (leading possibly to a
>multi-billion dollar =pace disaster) could push our planetary
>exploration program back by =ecades.

I think the problem with this is why Mars? Why escape one gravity well only
to plunge into another one? See below.

>Biosphere 2 in its early, idealistic incarnation is a sobering
>reminder =f how naive we still are!

Ignorance is a constant companion, but part of the problem here is the
notion that one should have a closed system at all. Why not design simpler
systems which could be replenished? After we have a foothold in space, one
could worry about designing some ideal construct of a life support system.
I'd rather do that than wait until everyone feels confident about another

>Such research, of course,
>could be fed back immediately into everything =rom disease
>control to environmental remediation to designing a world
>=iological community that would comfortably support the twenty
>billion or so people =e might expect by 2050, given longevity
>and health = improvements that would also follow. To make
>the next long leap, we have to understand much more about
>who we =re and how we function together and in nature,
>and how nature functions with =nd without us.

Perhaps, but again, understanding will always lag behind. I'd rather not
wait until all the problems are solved. It wouldn't be as much fun.


Daniel Ust

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