Sunday, January 27, 2008

From the studio wall

I read a book by John Brockman years ago with the irresistable title Einstein, Gertrude Stein, Wittgenstein and Frankenstein. Brockman wrote entertainingly about what were then cutting-edge discoveries in science across a broad spectrum, from microbiology to astrophysics.

Brockman has gone on to found Edge, a non-profit organization with the stated goal to "arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." The following quote is from a conversation between British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and geneticist Craig Venter. Dawkins described genetic information in a way I had never thought about:

"It’s more than just saying you can pick up a chromosome and put it in somewhere else. It is pure information. You could put it into a printed book. You could send it over the Internet. You could store it on a magnetic disk for a thousand years, and then in a thousand years’ time, with the technology that they’ll have then, it would be possible to reconstruct whatever living organism was here now. What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. It is pure information; it’s digital information; it’s precisely the kind of information that can be translated digit-for-digit, byte-for-byte into any other kind of information. "

7 comments:

Candy Barr said...

OK Don, we're ready to see this all in your next series of paintings! Love the last batch and the feeling of magnitude in them all.

Anonymous said...

Don, I just put together a jigsaw puzzle which I will pass it to my mother to put together. She ask me to number the EDGES. So in away we must number the edges for those who will follow us. Does that make sense?

Suzanne said...

When it's discussed in this way, the questions of morality can be skirted entirely. There was a good profile on Venter in The New Yorker some years back. Kind of a scary dude.

Don Gray said...

Thanks Candy. Good to see your computer's fixed and you're painting!

Don Gray said...

Anonymous, I think I get what you're saying--sorta...kinda...

Don Gray said...

Thanks for weighing in, Suzanne. These are huge issues with huge ramifications, moral and otherwise. Exciting and scary at the same time. In the same conversation with Venter, Dawkins also had this to say:

"What I do have a problem with is the possible unforeseen practical consequences of some of the sorts of things not just you are doing, but many other people are doing. I suspect that the phrase “playing God” is actually kind of— It’s a bit like the boy who cried ‘wolf,’ because accusing a scientist of playing God is obviously stupid, but what is not obviously stupid is accusing a scientist of endangering the future of the planet by doing something that could be irreversible."

d SINNER!!! said...

.....waitin fr more cllections from u.....

blogrolled ya....