Re: ESSAY: Program length, Omega and Friendliness

From: Robin Lee Powell (
Date: Thu Feb 23 2006 - 00:35:26 MST

On Wed, Feb 22, 2006 at 11:31:24PM -0600, Brian Atkins wrote:
> Mikko S?rel? wrote:
> >
> >Anything wrong with my analysis?
> >
> I've tried pondering this issue before (it would help if I
> actually knew a great deal about biology, etc., but I don't), and
> I come to the conclusion that it must be inaccurate to try and
> relate computer bits to base pair data. The reason is because I
> think you have to take into account the tremendous amount of "data
> compression" involved in the base pair information.
> Let's take for example what happens when you run a typical piece
> of computer software on a PC vs. what happens when you "run" some
> DNA/RNA in a live cell. In the PC, the bits on the hard drive
> (DNA) aren't usually even compressed, and are simply loaded into
> RAM (transfer via RNA) and run (via ribosomes etc.) sequentially
> or via simple jumps. Unless the program that runs is compressed
> down beforehand into extremely crazily reduced forms (such as
> perhaps in a assembly language coder contest by some insanely good
> hacker), what it produces when run isn't a great deal more complex
> than what was sitting on the hard drive.


Perhaps you've forgotten about the inherent complexity of the
hardware, shared libraries, and operating system?

I'll grant you that all of those things combined do not seem to add
up to the complexity of ribosomes + protien folding + physics, but
the analogy works: the additional complexity of using DNA comes from
the surrounding infrastructure, but computer programs *also* have
surrounding infrastructure, especially if one is writing in a
high-level language.


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