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« Some Thoughts on the Winter Solstice 2016 | Main | University of Washington Scientist: Fake News is Real News, Somewhere »

March 20, 2017


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Don Stewart

If your professional role permits it, I would appreciate your reaction to Nora Bateson's proposal to separate engineering complex systems from biological complex systems.

Thanks....Don Stewart

George Mobus

Hi Don.

I am sorry for delays in response. I retired only to take on a number of publication duties and now am a slave to publication deadlines worse than when I was in academia!

I will take a look at Nora's work. I met her and her mother at ISSS 2016 but I missed her talk. Get back to you as soon as I can!


Fred Magyar

Hello Don Stewart,
You might be interested in listening to Suzanne Simard's TED talk:
"How trees talk to each other"

Though while reading Nora's piece I kept thinking that the complex engineered systems she was talking about were, at the end of the day, products of our living wet ware...


Don Stewart

Fred Magyar
Take as an example epigenetics. We all have genes which can facilitate our behavior either in a dominant or a subservient role. When a subservient mother is pregnant, she passes on to her foetus methylation marks which cause them to be born behaving as subservient. However, methylation marks can be changed by drugs or strong environmental changes.

I believe it was more than 5 years ago that Dr. Dean Ornish demonstrated with before and after heat maps that he could change the diet of a patient and significantly change their gene expression. Now 'methylation reversal' drugs have been used to remove the addictive reaction to recreational drugs.

Of course, if the person reverts to the same environment that created the methylation pattern to begin with, then they may very likely revert back to the old methylation pattern. Using a drug to cure the addiction to junk food, therefore, may not work unless junk food is significantly restricted from the environment.

Living systems seem to be full of these kinds of effects which are built into the biology, but which we don't commonly see built into mechanical systems. Nora Bateson's claim (as I understand it) is that the biological and the mechanical are so different that it just creates more confusion than clarity to try to describe them both with the same sorts of models.

But George wrote ONE textbook, not two textbooks. And so I am curious what he thinks on the subject.

Don Stewart

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