Culture has been defined as the symbolic order; that is, the body of thoughts prescriptive of social relational order. “Thinking” has similarly been defined as the symbolic modeling of experience always with the potentials for suggesting an alternative order of experience. I define magic as embodying the purported techniques for fulfilling an alternative order of reality: the techniques for making our dreams come true; fulfilling our dreams in what we understand to the “real world.”
Sociologists assure us that only man creates symbols and simulates concrete relational order by means of symbolic systems of order. Sociologists proudly proclaim man the only culture creating agent in nature; but I propose that we need a radical rethinking of our picture of the role of DNA in bio-evolutionary history if we will progress beyond the outmoded conceptualization which continues to hold sway amongst biologists in spite of advances in information technology since the neo-Darwinian synthesis was first formulated.
My proposal to biological scientists is that DNA might, on closer examination of its molecular order, turn out to be a molecular computer nanomachine running on an advanced statespace intelligence algorithm of some sort. The science of genetics need consider, seriously, the possibility that so-called junk DNA might incorporate some form of intelligence code. It is significant that nature had, in the symbolic system of the DNA molecule, within the boundaries of the sociological definition, been “thinking,” creating and transmitting culture for eons before man appeared. Man may only represent a new, previously unexplored possibility for Natural Intelligence in the art of culture creation and transmission.
The self-imposed naivete of biological thought face-to-face with evidence of a pre-human system for symbolic modeling of physical relational order is remarkable. Could Natural Intelligence have revealed its hands more plainly to Watson and Crick, to Beadle and Tatum?
A yawning gap separates the mere existence of a macro-molecule and the exploitation of its chain structure in a system for symbolic modeling of concrete relational order. It is one thing to have the alphabets; it is a radically different thing to use the alphabets to invent a language by assigning references or “meaning” to otherwise meaningless symbols!
The genetic system accommodates the possibility, in what biologists carelessly believe are random mutations, for suggestion of alternative bio-physical orders. This is the essence of divergent thinking, creativity and innovation in intelligence systems.
How long will it take for molecular biologists to appreciate that the genetic system might incorporate some form of syntax-driven intelligence code?
Steven Pinker, in his How The Mind Works, attempted a working definition of intelligence. He was of the opinion that intelligence comes with a special “commodity:” information; and that what defines intelligent function ultimately is information processing capability.
Guided by the criterion of information processing functional capacity, Pinker confidently ascribes intelligence to appropriately programmed machines and the human brain which programs the machines, but fails, curiously, to extend the same standard of judgment to the genetic machinery of living things which has done basically all, and more than computer machines and human minds have so far done: find workable solutions to the array of ill-posed inverse problems that must have been encountered in evolutionary history.
A few insightful commentators, casting a suspicious eye on the performance of the genetic machinery of life, have commented that the molecular genetic system may be likened to a computer machine, but I have persistently argued that the molecular genetic system is not like a computer machine but, rather, DNA is a systems design and implementation nanorobot made up of molecular hardware parts, with some form of statespace intelligence algorithm written into the structure its macromolecule. To refer to DNA as an intelligent bio-systems design and implementation nanorobot is not to employ a metaphor but probably, as might be confirmed, to speak literally.
“Whodunit?” is another question entirely. But long standing philosophical prejudice, in an issue of this nature, should not continue to keep us from examining possibilities which may lead to a revolution in our insight into a very important and vexing problem of life and its origins.
What we know about DNA function is sufficient for the confident prediction that analysis of relevant sections of DNA organic base sequences might reveal language-like sequences which, when ultimately decoded, will prove to constitute some form of advanced intelligence code powering the robotic assembly line of the genetic system.
What is the world out there like?
This was the massively ill-posed inverse problem that a systems design and assembly robot would face in circumstances of the genetic system in bio-evolutionary history. Given a presumption of DNA as a programmed intelligence system which could not literally “see” the world out there, one might conjecture that it must have proceeded, at crucial stages in evolutionary history, by “smartguessing,” from fragmentary evidence, what a valid bioengineering solution to the problem at hand might look like and then proceeding to mapping out by massive parallel computing procedure statespace variations to the initial configuration under self imposed constraints of logic which reflect the basic assumptions with regard to statespace boundaries of the system being simulated.
Evolutionary mutations might not have been exactly random but might have proceeded under statespace operational constraints; but any highly organized system must bear with some noise: the generally deleterious mutations geneticists deal with in irradiated drosophila but mistake for the driving force of evolutionary progress.
Defining a statespace is largely synonymous with developing a language for expressing solutions in problem solving situations. The initial configuration and “neighborhood” rules governing the evolution of cellular automata, for instance, are synonymous with the rules of logic in human languages: the difference between logic operations of language and operations of a cellular automaton being only superficial.
The states and transformations of an automaton can, therefore, function effectively as a symbolic logic model of a given physical relational order in the same way that language can, if and only if the rules of its operations reflect or anticipate the logic of the states and transformations of the physical relational order it encodes.
When, however, as it may happen, there is an asymmetry between the logic of a system and the logic of the language which seeks to describe it, language inevitable devolves into gibberish corresponding to teratological forms of the physical relational order it encodes.
The implication of the foregoing to a Theory of Evolution is profound: the logic of DNA states and mutational transformations must somehow anticipate the idiosyncratic logic of bio-systems states and transformations. It is, in this context, important to point out the fact that “Artificial Life” designers mislead laymen when they talk of “seed” populations in a genetic algorithm as randomly generated. The “randomness” at initialization is within the boundaries of a defined state or search space, and the “seeding,” sometimes, is with a bias for the regions of statespace in which optimal solutions are expected to be found.
DNA might have behaved exactly like the “Artificial Life” designer in evolutionary history, by implementing stochastic search algorithms for optimal bio-engineering solutions within the boundaries of the statespace it defines with respect to the bioengineering problem under consideration: that is, DNA mutations might not be random in the way biologists naively conceive.
Getting properly acquainted with DNA as an intelligent robot would involve elucidating the statespace intelligence algorithms on which it runs. Nature abounds with glaring evidence of the extra-ordinary “smartguessing” skills of bio-information systems: the inverse optics wizardry of the human eye-brain couple, the navigational skills of birds and insects (DNA had no readymade “map of the world” to work with), and the quick and efficient mutational responses of microbes to antibiotic agents.
I have this strong gut feeling that we’d still be wallowing abjectly, beyond redemption, in the pristine organic soup had DNA no smart, street-wise alternatives to the naive “random mutations” of the “Neo-Darwinian synthesis.”