X-Message-Number: 25567
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 08:16:29 -0500
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: CryoNet #25557 - #25562

For Bob Ettinger:

You make good points in comparing what we can do to that which Nature
(to animate an automatic process) does. However I would add a few

1. The most common elements on Earth turn out to be those which also
compose life forms including us. That cannot be an accident, nor
is it a defect of living forms. If you want to make lots of any
form (machine or other) you would do well to use elements which are
easy to find as much as possible. 

2. Even though it may be invisible once expended, making any form
requires expenditure of energy. If we compare two devices, one of
which needs significantly more energy to make than the other,
we may well choose the one needing less energy, even if it canot
accomplish as much.

And to summarize 1 and 2, both in making any engineering device,
or considering how evolution makes a life form, compromises will
always occur. Neither evolution nor human engineers have designed
flying devices which can fly far better than any other such device,
but cannot land safely or refuel in any way.

3. If we look at airplanes, we notice an interesting fact. Most of
them look very like other airplanes. Our tools and other devices
resemble one another for a very simple reason which has nothing
whatever to do with inheritance: we use them in a setting which
involves not just landing fields (for airplanes) but repair systems,
refueling systems, and even the choice of fuel itelf. All of
these must change in concert with one another.

If you want a nice computer example, look at Microsoft's Windows

In terms of how evolution put us together, we can see the same
problem. If simple ways to fix a problem (the blind spot in our
eyes, for instance) exist, then there is no good reason to 
redesign our visual connections completely. Any evolutionary change,
just like any redesign or new invention, must work in a setting
which already exists and constrains possible changes by affecting their
cost or workability. 

We do, of course, notice change in living systems and in our
technology. However it's easy to raise problems with a design
for something if you ignore the history by which it grew.

            Best wishes and long long live for all,

                    Thomas Donaldson

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