Tuesday, June 6, 2017

No Junk. No Noise.

It has been reported that CRISPR/Cas9 may cause unintended mutations. Perhaps hundreds of Off Target mutations. There are, naturally, already objections to the study that resulted in this report.

I for one, would not be at all surprised that Nature Bites Back when a not entirely understood method is applied.

Like the old Jewish proverb: Man Plans, God Laughs.

Happens all the time with much simpler and more readily understood technologies. And when applied to the ultimate carbon-based nanotechnology, the Wholly Grail of Protean Tech, with complex, tightly coupled, kluge-ridden infrastructure, one should expect the machine to do what it is already set up to do, rather than what we intend. And honestly, when you've a fractal information storage system, with levels of scale effecting each from the smallest to the largest, why the fuck would anyone be at all surprised by a global reaction? After all, it was only a few years ago that biologists though whole domains of the genome were just junk, and now it is turning out that the junk is, well, not entirely junk. Repurpose, recycle, reuse on steroids, more like.

Reminds me of an article I read in Nautilus magazine a number of years ago. I searched in vain here in my memory palace to find it. Ah, but good old serendipity, Nautilus republished an updated  version: Nature, The IT Wizard.  

This article caused me to come up with the term suzammenbindenkugel - the self-reinforcing holistic bubble. I still like the term, hearkening as it does to my Teutonic roots, back when Germany was the most advanced scientific nation on Earth, before it decided to eat its own limbs for fifty years.

The gist of the article is how blazingly efficient all of these incredibly messy molecules and structures we call Life are, bumping right up against the mathematical limits of efficiency. Why if our poor fire ape technology of metal, ceramic, and crystalline doohickeys  were just a fraction of this, we'd at least have a Solar System striding empire by now. Or a smoke enshrouded hell world. Or something.

The takeaway I got from this article was noise in the brain. Recent news reveals that neurons are not simply on/off transistors, that regions within the neurons, the dendrites for example, perform highly complex calculations that determine neuronal behavior. And, it turns out there are even bigger slow coherent oscillations within the brain that propagate to connect neurons in distant parts of the brain. We thought this was just noise, but no. (Throw in the incredible system of astrocytes and, of course, the gut brain, and all that cutting edge neural networks like Google DeepMind look risibly unsophisticated and downright primitive, no?)

So, we have junk that ain't junk and noise that ain't noise, and it was just our ignorance all along, go figure.

Which makes me wonder about the latest technique in deep cranial stimulation: a method that can electrically stimulate deep structures within the brain without implanting electrodes via surgical intervention. Sounds like they've stumbled upon a technique the brain already uses. And I wonder what unintended side effect this will have?