Re: virus: Virus Lexicon, etc

Duane Daniel Hewitt (
Fri, 7 Apr 1995 16:22:06 -0600 (MDT)

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995, David McFadzean wrote:

> Which memes have transferred between species?

Gorrilas have been taught Sign language. Imitative behaviours.
Training animals to do tricks. Theoretically, if we destroyed ourselves
alien archeoligists could be infected by our memes. Maybe broadcasts of
Nazi Germany will infect other civilizations.

> I was talking about the adaptability of an individual, not a species.
> I am assuming that complexity is a necessary condition because how else
> would you explain the rise of complexity in the evolution of life on Earth?

Selection pressures work over generations in a species. How does one
evaluate the adaptibility of an individual? To me complexity and
adaptability are distinct but I agree that complexity leads to a greater
range of adaptability. It is hard to envision non-intelligent life
leaving the planet it is generated upon.

> >Does a virus predict how it will take over a cell? Or are you meaning
> >that at a systemic level the inputs from the virus have a specific effect
> >that allows it to propagate and thus there is a selection for system A
> >(the virus) being able to control system B (the cell) in the most efficient
> >manner.
> Yes, a virus doesn't predict the cell's behaviour in the same sense that
> humans predict behaviour (consciously). They do predict behaviour to the
> extent that information about the cell is stored in the makeup of the
> virus (which may be little or none, I don't know).

The virus has proteins which take control of the cellular machinery.
Viruses are for the most part very streamlined in that they do not carry
much extraneous information compared to humans and plants. The proteins
are like keys which unlock the cellular control processes and turn them
into a viral production line.

> No, you may understand a system very well but if you have no ability
> to affect the system's control variables, you have no control over that
> system.

What about someone who controls something that they do not understand?

> >Yes, I remember this article now. It important not to get to caught up
> >defending the indefensible. It is better to make your assumptions and
> >operate on them until something causes you to check your premises.
> Actually I think it is worthwhile to check your assumptions more often
> than that. I think this dilemma (exploration vs. exploitation) is modelled
> by the 2-armed bandit thought experiment.

Could you jog my memory on this one.

We should have a page on that
> (and the prisoner's dilemma, of course). Very useful memes, both.

Yes, good idea.