[ExI] Biochemical Chauvanism (was Re: Zombie glutamate)

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Mon Feb 23 22:50:49 UTC 2015

On Mon, Feb 23, 2015  Stuart LaForge <avant at sollegro.com> wrote:

> First, to use your own analogy, you keep looking for the message in the
> bottle but there is none. The bottle itself is the message

Yes, and one bottle is identical to another and one molecule of the hormone
adrenaline is identical to another molecule of adrenaline so each molecule
(or bottle) carries the same identical message (Mr. Heart beat faster) and
if it's desirable for the heart to beat even faster the only solution is
for the adrenaline gland to secrete more molecules of adrenaline into the
bloodstream and wait for them to randomly diffuse to the heart. So you've
got a extremely slow extremely extremely low bandwidth extremely primitive
communication system.

> > purpose of a molecule is not magically stamped onto it somewhere like
> some message to be read.

It's not magical it's chemical, and purpose implies intention and molecules
have none. But Messenger RNA can certainly read the message in DNA and copy
it and translate it into the RNA language, and Ribosomal RNA can certainly
read Messenger RNA and translate the  RNA/nucleotide  language into the
      amino-acid/protein language.

> > But there is no "bit of information" that it carries that maps to its
> function in an organism.

It's not a map it's a recipe, and in the entire human genome there are only
3 billion base pairs. There are 4 bases so each base can represent 2 bits,
there are 8 bits per byte so that comes out to just 750 meg, and that's
enough assembly instructions to make not just a brain and all its wiring
but a entire human baby. So the instructions MUST contain wiring
instructions such as "wire a neuron up this way and then repeat that
procedure exactly the same way 917 billion times". And there is a huge
amount of redundancy in the human genome so if you used a file compression
program like ZIP on that 750 meg you could easily put the entire thing on a
CD, not a DVD not a Blu ray just a old fashioned steam powered vanilla CD,
and you'd still have room for dozens of lady Gaga songs.

> > Furthermore a given molecule often serves different purposes in
> different cells in the same organism.

Irrelevant, one molecule is identical to another so whatever the message is
it's identical in all of the molecules. And by the way, there are only
about 200 different types of cells in the human body.

> > The only sense in which the bottle is a "message" is if there was some
> sort of prearranged agreement between the three actors as to what the
> bottle "means".

And that is exactly what happens in both biology and electrical
engineering, the adrenal gland has a agreement with the heart what
adrenalin means  the memory chip and microprocessor chip in my computer
have a similar agreement.

> > Yet it is entirely possible that a system spontaneously arises wherein
> Alice, Bob, and Carol repeatedly do exactly what I described to the benefit
> of all three, without any agreement at all. In that situation

That won't work if Carol doesn't understand Alice's language, or at least
it won't work unless Carol understands Bob and Bob understands Alice and
Bob can translate; and that's what happens in biology with DNA-RNA-protein.

>> Oh no are we really going back to the Beckenstein bound, something
>> that virtually no biologist thinks is of the slightest importance? Very
>> well if you want to play that silly game, my iMac has a larger surface
>> area than your brain brain therefore according to Beckenstein it contains
>> more information than  more information than your brain. QED
>> Yes it's a silly game but you're the one who wanted to play.
> > Oh come now, debate tricks like red herrings are beneath this discussion.

LOOK WHO'S TALKING! You're the one who brought up the Beckenstein bound not
me, so if you say it's relevant to biology (and it's not) then  I can say
it's relevant to electrical engineering.

> > I repeatedly stated that the Beckenstein bound is an *upper limit* to
> the amount of quantum mechanical information that a molecule, brain, or
> other system could possibly contain.

And the speed of light is the *upper limit* to how fast my car can go, and
now you've learned as much about my car as I learned about  the brain when
you said the Beckenstein bound is an *upper limit* to the amount it can

> > Yes most biologists would not think it [ the Beckenstein bound]  was
> important. So what?

So it's not important. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if most biologists,
even most Nobel Prize winning biologists, have never even heard of the
Beckenstein bound and their ignorance has not hampered their biological
work one iota.

> > And yes by virtue of its larger size, it is theoretically possible
> within the laws of physics for your iMac to someday to contain more
> information than a human brain.

My computer already contains more information than your brain and according
to Beckenstein so does a rock provided it has a larger surface area than
your brain. Do you think this is important? I don't.

> Yes, a good simplification gets rid of pointless wheels within wheels
>> and gets to the essentials.
>> Essentials?

Yes essentials.

> >I thought you didn't believe in immaterial essences?

Oh, is finding shorter and faster algorithms or avoiding and shuning
repetition and unnecessary inessential and needless repetition and
redundancy and repetition supposed to be metaphysical now?

But to tell the truth I do sorta kinda have a metaphysical side, I believe
that Information is as close as you can get to the traditional concept of
the soul and still remain  within the scientific method. Consider the

The soul is non material and so is information. It's difficult to pin down
a unique physical location for the soul, and the same is true for
 information. The soul is the essential, must have, part of consciousness,
 exactly the same situation is true for information. The soul is immortal
 and so, potentially, is information.

However there are important differences:

A soul is unique but information can be duplicated. The soul is and will
always remain unfathomable, but information is understandable, in fact,
information is the ONLY thing that is understandable. Information
unambiguously exists, I don't think anyone would deny that, but if the soul
exists it will never be proven scientifically.

>  > By general relativity, epicycles are a perfectly valid description of
> the solar system because all reference frames are valid.

That is incorrect. No finite number of  epicycles will ever do as good a
job as Newton, much less Einstein, because planets don't move in circles,
they move in ellipses. Kepler knew that 400 years ago.

> > your calculator merely computes patterns of light  and dark on a display
> and your iPod merely outputs patterns of sound waves.

And your brain merely sends electrochemical signals (about one million
times slower than the signals in my computer) from one neuron to another.
When you break something down into smaller and smaller and simpler and
simpler parts then eventually, no matter how gran and glorious and
beautiful it is, you will come to a part where you have to use the word
"merely" to describe what it does.

> > Yes information is real, yes it causes shit to happen, but it only
> really *means* anything to an observer capable of decoding and processing
> it.

The microprocessor in my computer knows how to decode and process the
information it received from the disk drive and Ribosomal RNA knows how to
decode and process the information in messenger RNA. If you waht to call a
microprocessor and Ribosomal RNA  "observers" that's up to you.

> A simulated flame will only burn a simulated object if a programmer
> instructs it to

Not necessarily, a programmer might not know and have no way of knowing
that a simulated flame that would even appear in his simulation much less
that it would burn up a simulated object in it. A purely deterministic
computer can behave in ways that the programmer did not and could not
expect. It would only take a few minutes to write a program to look for the
first even number greater than 2 that is not the sum of two prime numbers
and then stop. But will the machine ever stop? I don't know, you don't
know, even the computer doesn't know. Maybe it will stop in the next 5
seconds, maybe it will stop in 50 billion years, and maybe it will never
stop. If you want to know what the machine will actually do you just have
to watch it and see, and you might be watching forever. And just like us
the machine doesn't know what it will do until it actually does it.

And if a little  5 line program can be that unpredictable think about a 5
million or 5 billion line simulation program.

> > A programmer cannot simulate what he doesn't understand

If that were true there would be no point in simulation anything.

> he can only try to simulate everything about a system that he
> understands.

Why simulate something if you already know what it will do?

 John K Clark
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