LifeOS: exploring the system that executes DNA

March 11, 2009

Conceptual Sandbox

There is another information processing concept that is used extensively in biological systems. It is a protected area called a sandbox.

Sandbox: A protected, limited environment where applications (e.g. Java programs downloaded from the Internet) are allowed to “play” without risking damage to the rest of the system.
–From computer-dictionary-online.org.

Virtual Machine

This limited environment has available all of the important resources the untested code needs to function, but is confined to a virtual machine where it can’t interact with the “real” operating system. This isolation makes for a safe place to experiment with new code. Part of what makes it work is the relative innocence of such an area. The coded elements within the sandbox are “unaware” that they are part of a larger system and operate as if they were an isolated entity.

As you can see, software development depends on this concept at all levels. In this conceptual environment, code can be tested and refined, errors, viruses and misconceptions can be identified and corrected, bold new ideas can be entertained without risk to established procedures.

Protected Areas

Natural systems, both biological and otherwise, make extensive use of this concept. The planet Earth is a good local example. Planets, solar systems and galaxies are isolated environments that certainly fit the conceptual model. Australia and the Galapagos Islands are also examples of protected and limited environments where new models can be tested.

From an evolutionary standpoint, a species serves the same function. Each individual agent the system produces operates in its own sandbox. An agent is furnished with its own operating system, its own algorithms and the ability to choose among them or make up new ones. Just as in its computer counterpart, the agent is unaware that it is part of the larger system and acts on its own, interacting with its own perceived environment. If this experimental agent is successful and survives to reproduce, the code passes the test and continues to contribute to the whole. If this version fails to reproduce, the code is rejected, and no damage is done to the system.

Nested Sandboxes

So, we can look at the universe as a system of nested sandboxes. In this view, every living thing can be seen as an experiment in sustainability. Natural selection verifies the success of the test, incorporating the tested code into a new configuration that also will be tested. Meanwhile, all experiments are monitored and compared through their holographic entanglement.

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