Stephen Paul King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tue, 30 Nov 1999 20:08:19 -0500
Dear Robert and Friends,
Just a brief comment. I am familiar with the mentioned aspect of
Prigogine's work. But, it seems that the author of this paper should try
living as an "untouchable" within the Indian caste system! It reminds me
of his thoughts on eusocial individuals. "Specialization builds in
weakness" from Ghost in a Shell
> >From the New York Times science section today:
> Pondering Next Rung on the Evolutionary Ladder
> By MALCOLM W. BROWNE
> A fundamental step in the process entails inducing many independent
> individuals to join together and march in lockstep. Scientists in Denmark
> recently discovered an intriguing new manifestation of this behavior in
> cells of baker's yeast -- the kind that makes bread dough rise.
> Yeast cells ordinarily lead lives independent of one another as they leaven
> bread dough, ferment grape juice or cause yeast infections. But a team
> led by Dr. Sune Dano of the University of Copenhagen reported in a
> recent issue of Nature that they had engineered a yeast community in
> which all the cells produced synchronous pulses of a chemical called
> NADH, one of the substances created when an organism breaks down
> sugar to generate energy.
> This chemical oscillation of yeast, in which concentrations of NADH
> rhythmically rise and fall, has been observed before. But the trick in this
> case was finding a way to keep the oscillations going indefinitely. To do
> this, Dr. Dano said in an interview, the scientists exploited a theory for
> which the Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine was awarded the 1977 Nobel
> Prize in Chemistry. In simple terms, Dr. Prigogine showed that despite
> the laws of thermodynamics that make most physical processes run
> downhill, an upward march toward increasing complexity can be
> achieved in "open" systems.
> Open systems, which Dr. Prigogine dubbed "dissipative structures," are
> those to which energy is constantly added and waste (in the form of
> entropy, a measure of a system's disorder) is removed. Trees and people
> are examples of dissipative structures.
> Communication provides the coherence allowing such superbeings to
> function; the complicated dance steps used by bees to inform their
> hive-mates of the directions and distances to food sources serve as their
> colonies' internet.
> Higher still on the complexity ladder are birds that flock and fish that
> swim in perfectly choreographed collective patterns.
> One of the strangest creatures is the naked mole rat, a nearly blind little
> animal living in East African deserts that spends its life underground within
> a "eusocial" organization, as biologists call it, more like that of insects than
> of other mammals. Each individual in a mole rat colony serves as a cog in
> a big wheel; only one female in a colony produces young, and the other
> animals have the specialized jobs of searching for food, caring for the
> young, guarding against predators and house-cleaning.
> For a naked mole rat, the sole focus of existence is the colony; individual
> life outside the colony is meaningless.
> Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel, "Brave New World," envisions a human
> society in which individuals are programmed before birth as "Alpha-plus
> intellectuals," "Epsilon-minus morons" or any of the intermediate levels,
> predestining everyone to specific occupations in a rigidly structured
> society, not unlike that of mole rats.
> Today, the world has sufficient "carrying capacity" to sustain its human
> population in the guise of individuals capable of independent action. But
> might a day come when we run out of necessities and are forced to
> evolve toward a eusocial superbeing?
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