Monday, May 27, 2019

Dennis Bray's "Wetware"

Just finished reading Wetware, which I had owned for a while and started reading a couple times while traveling but misplaced both times, so I had to go back to the beginning. I don't agree with everything Bray says, and in the 8 years since he published the book, a lot happened both in computing and in biology. But I recommend Wetware to anyone who is puzzled about the similarities and differences between living things and computers. Three quotes that connected:
Neural networks can cope with large amounts of information, supplied as written text, facial features, industrial processes, and so on. They can recognize restricted sets of patterns better than we can. But what they do is the tapping of a tin drum compared with the symphony orchestra of natural environments.
Such coupling of environmental parameters through internal circuits allows a cell to predict future events. These circuits contain, implicitly, the probability of certain life-changing events.
If the detailed chemistry of the cell is simply the outcome of a historical ragbag of ad hoc interactions, then it will be no more predictable than the weather. 

No comments: