Monday, 7 October 2013

An example of transdisciplinarity: expert systems and evolutionary cladistics 5. Reconciling two forms of evolution

In transdisciplinarity, the point at which two realities connect is the T state -- the included middle which replaces the excluded middle of classical logic. There is no violation of classical logic here -- classical logic concerns itself only with a single reality. It epitomizes the monodisciplinary. Classical logic also has no problems with the interdisciplinary -- those subsidiary subjects make no claims to be alternative realities, they are simply a set of tools used to aid in the resolution of the stated problems of the topic of study.

The interdisciplinary does, however, give us a glimpse of the interconnectedness of systems. Within our own bodies are a large number of systems that, together, define us as living and viable examples of our species. Much has been made of the 4% difference between chimpanzee and human genes, perhaps because people believe that such an evolved species such as ourselves should have great genetic variability, and surely, only a 4% difference does not express this idea. In actual fact, evolution seeks ever simpler systems; it looks for, and finds, shortcuts to just about everything because such shortcuts are survival oriented. There are many "lower" forms of life which have a far greater number of genes than we would expect, the water flea, Daphnia pulex has an estimated 31,000 genes which is compared to the 23,000 recorded in the human genome project. Of course, the comparison is between an estimate and what has been recorded -- humans have an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 genes. Even accounting for the differences between the estimates, it is possible, although unlikely, that the water flea could have up to 1,000 more genes than the human.

By connecting closely related systems in ever more simpler ways, the "working models" of these systems, i.e. the species share a large number of resources. We do not find vast genetic differences between any mammals, human and mouse, for example. Quicker reaction times are a boon to survival, and any organism that happened to have built a few shortcuts would be more likely to pass this trait to its offspring. People can confuse genes with DNA: although we share a limited number of genes, the DNA of every human being is different. In the last episode, I linked to news of the discoveries of switches in the, formerly, "junk" DNA that turns genes, or sets of genes, on and off. A gene that is switched on or off can be inherited in that same state, by the organism's offspring.  The genes that seem mostly to be inherited are the survival-oriented characteristics that define the "working models" of the systems. In other words, species have a tendency to remain, definably, the same species. Dramatic gene switching which results in a new species have occurrences strung out over a very long period of time. Happenstance has one of these events: the emergence of Homo sapiens, occurring relatively recently, but most new species in hominid evolution have emerged over millions of years. Minor gene switching takes place all the time, the body constantly compensating for changes in its systems or changes in the environment of the organism. Of course, not all compensations work properly and then medicine comes into play.

Beyond the interconnectedness of systems operating on the same level of reality, even with their complexities, is the transdisciplinary world of adjacent realities. In this example, I am connecting, at the T state, biological evolution and genetics with the structures of expert systems and the evolutionary methods of artists developing a product, where both of the latter are focused on three series of coins issued in the middle of the first century BC in northwest Gaul. Consider the chronological chart for Series Y, This is like an evolutionary genome -- each new variation being the offspring of the previous one. You can see the equivalent of a gene being switched off, and then on again in the sequence: 3.1; 3.2; 3.1. When he starts to evolve the designs in this series, the die engraver starts by representing the head on the obverse with an ornament that descends from its mouth (3.1). After 13 "generations", the 3.1 "gene" is switched off and this state continues for another 16 generations when it is turned on again, and it remains switched on until the series (species) goes extinct 21 generations later. In looking at the different patterns of their respective "genomes", the creators of the first two series were not working to a pre-defined end, they were evolving their designs through experimentation and adjustment. They could also create, abandon, and then repeat certain elements. In these two series, once a long series of adjustments had been made, instead of just copying the perfected design, the die engravers then created a "masterpiece" that was an entire novelty and did not influence later work -- on their subsequent design changes they continued with their painstaking adjustments to a new design and direction. This reveals something about the tenets of their art: mindless repetition was taboo, things had to be both unique and developing to an unknown state of perfection. We cannot know if producing the masterpiece was a formulated stage of the process, or just an example of "letting their hair down". The third series (Z) is telling because it evolves nothing at all. It mixes previously used elements from the other two series in an arbitrary manner that gives a casual observer the impression that there is some thought behind the changes. Series Z is all image and no substance, it was paid out to "thiefs and brigands" as Caesar called them -- the rag-tag army of Viridovix of the Unelli.

The time scale of the coin series "genomes" is very short because changes are self-determined by the die engraver. To translate that into the scale of biological evolution, we replace the "self determinism module" with a series of genetic changes over a large number of generations whereby those with survival benefits are thus enabled to be more successful at breeding and passing down those traits.

The second T state connects with the expert system which is built using the cladistic structure. It is nothing like a genome as it shows the effects of the genome and not the process that manifested those effects. The method of building an expert system is to find ways in which the shortest numbers of steps from the initial question to the final answer can be created. Evolution does exactly the same thing by building survival granting short cuts -- but we would expect all of this to be so: our ability to even conceive of an expert system is due to the familiarity we have with nature's processes -- we act in an automatic way because this is what nature does. We do not have to keep thinking about how to do such things, they come naturally -- our survival had depended on it. The only way to stop such a natural process would be to insist on a series of arbitrary steps to each task. In the brain, this would result in the creation of neural pathways which would direct energy along those pathways in the fastest way possible. The down side of this is that to the degree that the neural pathways become "deeper", other potential shortcuts become less visible -- the process becomes habit. Clearly not a good evolutionary choice!

Having both the "genome" model and the cladistic model directed at the same objects (the coin series) is a distinct advantage. By replacing thought modules with corresponding biological modules, entire systems can be seen to work along the same lines. This is a valid approach because of  interconnectedness. Because we have the advantage of authorship with expert systems, we can not only create short cuts, but we know how such short cuts are created.

In the next episode, "good housekeeping" in building an expert system reveals a serious flaw in the use of cladistics to plot evolutionary changes.

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