Man, the Digital Machine

There is enough evidence to show that man is a digital organic machine. As such, he may be measured, quantified, augmented and redesigned. There will be many in opposition and the road will be rocky, but reason will prevail.


THE OPPOSITION
THE GENOME IS A DIGITAL PROGRAM
A LOOK AT THE NEURAL SYSTEM
NEURAL SYSTEM OUTPUT DRIVERS
DNA AS A MEMORY DEVICE


The Opposition

Man is an arrogant creature, with exalted opinions of his own worth and value. He is thus blinded by his subjectivity and becomes angry at anyone who he perceives to be trying to tilt his pedestal. Those who live by dogma, be they religious or liberal/socialist/Marxist, are unwilling to listen due to the security they feel in their beliefs. The religious call the student of genetics and evolution a horrible corrupter of society, leading mankind into cultural chaos. The academic elite, though not a believer in souls, nevertheless attributes to the "whole" man some sort of ethereal or spiritual quality far far above the probing of an insensitive and mechanical minded scientist, one who is more robot than man and therefore lacking in the understanding of the higher qualities of the "civilized" man.

By his nature, man is curious. Curiosity is an instinct and is present in all of the higher animals. It is a valuable instinct for survival. Knowledge of the environment, gathered before it is needed, adds accuracy to decision making when an emergency arises. Place any one of the higher animals in a new environment and it will immediately begin exploring. It will be cautious at first, but as knowledge expands so does confidence. A primary part of man's survival and ascendancy was the result of his curiosity. As he learned about his environment down through the ages, he turned the knowledge to his own benefit. As long as he is a man, man will remain curious. Although it may stop him from speaking out, no dogma will ever stop man from questioning the universe and every particle in it.

In the beginning this search for knowledge concerned food and safe havens from predators. Now it is space, the origin of the universe and the greatest challenge of all for man, man himself. He learned early on that often the success of any job depended on the tools available for that job. A dull axe makes gathering wood for the evening meal a more difficult task. Now man realizes that the limiting tool in his future is man himself. It has become necessary to define those limits.

What is man? This is the ultimate question, solve it and all of the needs of man will fall into place. Is he a divine creature, as the religious believe, created and protected by an ultimate being? Or is he an intelligent creature, as the LSM believes, capable of understanding all through the power of his mind? Or neither, as the 'moderate' believes. Or is he an instinctive animal with intelligence, as the study of his origin and development would indicate? Only the latter theory has factual basis.

There are many who seek the easy answer and will continue to do so. Others don't wish to know. Still others are afraid of the truth. For all of these, dogma, whether religious or socialist, provides their answer. To be sure, one or the other may be right, but dogma does not provide conclusive answers. Many men are doubters of both and suspect an entirely different set of answers, answers for questions some of which are still unknown. If the socialist is correct, why should he fear this study? It can only add evidence to his theories. The same for the religious. Both should welcome proof that their theories are correct. What they will not admit is that they are afraid of being proven wrong, and in that event their worlds will come crashing down around them.

The LSM bunch worship man in his carnal completeness and they see absolutely no need for any further understanding. Don't bother them with facts, their minds are made up. Like the religious, they are frightened, but their fear is that somehow someone will prove that man does need self-discipline, that there are rules he must follow, that most of his actions are instinctive and therefore will not respond to education, and that he should be punished if he does something wrong. Horrors! Their main fear is that they personally might need to conform to rules of civil decency and honor, in which they do not believe. That's why they fight so hard against value systems. Besides, to them anything learned in science isn't fit for the "whole" man, one with education in the literature, humanities and art. Conjecture, dogma and opinion are far more reasonable sources for knowledge to them.

Contrary to both of these stands, it appears that it is highly possible that man is definable, mentally and physically. Not yet, but soon. Why? Because man is an organic digital machine. Digital machinery may be analyzed, duplicated and modified. State of the art computation and communication equipment is digital. Man is becoming adept at the analysis, manufacture and design of digital equipment. Man becomes just another piece of equipment which needs analysis. Why? Because like any machine that was built with poor engineering and undisciplined construction, it needs repair or replacement. Both of these functions require a thorough prior understanding.


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The Genome is a Digital Program.

When executed, it produces man. The following section is repeated from Evolution. It is repeated here for reading continuity.

The DNA which describes each individual is in a digital code. The code is made up of four possible values. In number form, these could be expressed as 0, 1, 2, 3, but are normally expressed as four letter values: A, C, G, and T. These are always paired with their reciprocal value (see the text OneLife for more detail). Note that the DNA description of all living things is made up of only four basic construction blocks. There are about three billion of these base pairs in the human genome. These are used in groups of three, called codons. Each codon consists of three base pairs, each of which may carry one of four possible values. The number of codon values which can be expressed in three elements of four values each is 64. Normally these values would be assigned as 0, 1, 2, etc. through the number 63. Instead, all possible codons are expressed in the following table:

AAA AAC AAG AAT ACA ACC ACG ACT
AGA AGC AGG AGT ATA ATC ATG ATT
CAA CAC CAG CAT CCA CCC CCG CCT
CGA CGC CGG CGT CTA CTC CTG CTT
GAA GAC GAG GAT GCA GCC GCG GCT
GGA GGC GGG GGT GTA GTC GTG GTT
TAA TAC TAG TAT TCA TCC TCG TCT
TGA TGC TGG TGT TTA TTC TTG TTT

Note that this list contains all of the possible codons, there are no CAA.5 or CTT 1/2 codons. The beauty of things digital is the simplicity and precision. There are 64 precise arrangements of base pairs and only 64. All life is constructed in response to these precise codon values, and no other.

Most of these sixty-four combinations are used to produce 20 protein building blocks, called amino acids, from which the human organism is constructed. Some of the others are duplicates, and some are called "stop" codes. The following list shows the correspondence between the codon values and the 20 amino acids which in man will be produced from that coding:

Amino Acid Codons which code for that amino acid
Alenine GCA GCC GCG GCT    
Cysteine TGC TGT        
Aspartic acid GAC GAT        
Glutamic acid GAA GAG        
Phenylalanine TTC TTT        
Glycine GGA GGC GGG GGT    
Histidine CAC CAT        
Isoleucine ATA ATC ATT      
Lysine AAA AAG        
Leucine TTA TTG CTA CTC CTG CTT
Methionine ATG          
Asparagine AAC AAT        
Proline CCA CCC CCG CCT    
Glutamine CAA CAG        
Arginine AGA AGG CGA CGC CGG CGT
Serine AGC AGT TCA TCC TCG TCT
Theonine ACA ACC ACG ACT    
Valine GTA GTC GTG GTT    
Tryptophan TGG          
Tyrosine TAC TAT        

The substance of the human body is constructed from proteins, which in turn are constructed from these 20 amino acids.

As the program in the genome is read codon by codon from a starting code to a codon stop code, the sequence of codons dictate the construction of a protein. A particular series of codons will describe a particular protein which the cell can produce. In the case of man, more than 80,000 different proteins are manufactured in the cells from these digital formulas to form and maintain the overall organism. Some of these proteins are quite complex. The final assembly may total many thousands of various amino acids, all arranged precisely. The genome, then, is a precise digital formula which describes the construction of an entire human being. These instructions include precise formulas for the material used to build the body and precise assembly instructions as well.

Modern computers use binary arithmetic, where each position (bit) has a value of 0 or 1. Since larger numbers are needed, a handier concept is a byte, consisting of eight bits and capable of a value from 0 to 255. The codon set can be represented by assigning values from 0 to 63 and so fits well within a byte. The three billion byte genome representation will fit in any hard disk of 3 gigabytes are more, well within the size range of modern desk-top computers. This is the data base which describes man in such detail that it can actually construct an entire human including all of the instructions for his development and demise. This is the raw data from which knowledge may be obtained. Every particle of man is described in precise detail. Since his instinct detail is also fixed by this coding, that will also be analyzed and cataloged. Since man is driven by his instinct in all social actions, the initial propensity for a particular set of social drives is inherent in his DNA coding and so may be uncovered individual by individual.

It should be noted that these social drives, being instinctive, are not subject to change through education. This is why modern dogma fails in our society. It depends on education for proper social action and education can't effect instinct. Man does not, and can not respond to education which tells him how he should think or feel about a given social interaction. Those with benign social instincts will always follow the cultural rules, whether taught to feel right about them or not. Those with perverted social instincts (most of us) will only respond to being taught what they are allowed to do or not to do. To the degree that these cultural rules interfere with each individual's instinct, he must be given social encouragement to follow the rules. That encouragement may be positive or negative. He may be given rewards for doing the proper thing (the use of a special employee of the month parking place), or swift punishment for infractions (10 years at hard labor in an uncomfortable prison for an armed felony). Now if we could just get the psychologists, psychiatrists, judiciary, educators, social engineers, etc. to understand this.

The human genome project is now preparing the human data base. Even now many of the fragments of that data base have been mapped and their use and purpose documented. It will be several very short years before this mapping is completed. Most of the genes will be documented within the next twenty years. It may be some time before the nuances of this digital program have been documented. No matter, the point is that the genome is well under study and its complete and detailed function will be uncovered and documented. Even now more than 7,000 genetic defects have been located.

Once the genome is mapped and recorded, the function of every element in that program will be analyzed. Since man's social inclinations are instinctive, that data are recorded in that program. The knowledge and experience gained after birth and their effect on man's action will remain a mystery for a short time after that, then it, too, will fall to man's analysis. A look at two of the basic elements of man's nervous system will show that it is extremely complex and foreign to our engineering concepts of control systems. So much the better, it will be a challenge worthy of the best of us. Time will come when we will know. (End of section from Evolution).


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A Look at the Neural System

Man's neural system (including his brain) is also digital.

The sketch shows a typical nerve cell which is provided in the body for the transfer of information. The red dot on the left represents the nucleus of the cell. Signals are input from other nerve cells or from sensors to the cell wall and the dendrites. There may be many inputs. As a result of these inputs the cell will develop an electrical pulse which will travel down the axon and away from the nucleus. The axon may be quite short or it may be up to a meter in length. When the signal reaches the right end of the axon it will travel to the ends of the terminal branches. There the signal will be applied to many other nerve cells.

The input signal is arranged on receipt to act as either an excitation signal or an inhibition signal. Some pulses received on certain locations tend to excite the subject nerve cell into discharging an electrical pulse down the axon, others at different locations tend to inhibit the generation of a pulse. The cell then becomes a decision mechanism which generates pulses in response to a form of signal summation, quite like a multi-term boolean function (state machine) in modern computers. The signal on the axon is then distributed to many other nerve cells for a similar summation (further computation). A typical axon signal is shown below.

The axon signal is an electrical voltage pulse. It requires about .7 millisecond for the pulse to reach its peak voltage. The decay of the pulse is quite long, about 7 milliseconds. The shape of the pulse with time is incidental, it is the presence or absence of the pulse which matters in the data transmission. That method is within the definition of digital communication.

Modern communications practice is to provide high volume data transmission by multiplexing single paths. A single channel is setup on a signal conductor (example - a fiber optic line) and a high volume of signals are processed by time-sharing the line. The switching from signal to signal is done so rapidly that it appears to the end user as if a separate line was assigned to each signal. Modern computer practice is to use parallel high speed channels with one binary bit transmission on each channel. Electronic signals travel at the speed of 300,000,000 meters per second. The speed of the pulse on an axon is about 100 meters per second. Switching speeds on electronic equipment are measured in nanoseconds (1/1,000,000,000 second). Axon speeds are measured in milliseconds (1/1000 second), about a million times slower.

It would seem that the human nervous system is quite slow, but nature has some tricks up its sleeve also. For one example, consider the eye. The eye is composed of thousands upon thousands of photoreceptors (sensor cells). A separate nerve axon carries the signal from each photoreceptor into the brain. It uses thousands upon thousands of parallel channels to offset the slow signal generation and transmission. When it arrives in the brain, each channel immediately fans out to many other cells through summation decision mechanisms as described above, where the movement of a signal from cell to cell performs the calculation necessary to visualize the result. All of the signals from the eye into the brain are in the form of digital pulses. The speed at which the brain can perceive images is about twenty images per second. This is why TV and movies can fool the brain into perceiving motion by presenting images at a rate faster than the ability of the eye and brain to process. It is a remarkable feat, however, that the brain can receive, process and understand a million or so portions of an image in about fifty milliseconds. That includes high definition color (at least equal to 32 bits per pixel) and with depth perception. It must simultaneously process two sets of images and compare them. In communications terms that bandwidth is about the same as a 32 bit wide computer buss running at 20 megahertz. Not shabby at all for something that bleeds.

The information processing within the brain utilizes nerve cells as shown in the first schematic, with multiple inputs and outputs. Information spreads through the brain quite rapidly. The propagation rate is about 1 millisecond per computation (the time required for the pulse to reach its peak, travel a short distance, and fire the next stage). For example, if the average number of terminal branches was 20, and the computation extended to a period allowing 10 stages of calculation (about 10 milliseconds), the signal from a single axon could reach far more than all of the cells in the brain. This indicates a far more complex computation method than the simple boolean circuitry on the cell walls and in the dendrites. Timing also enters into the picture, since an inhibiting signal would appear at different times during the computation period in different portions of the brain. Brain wave patterns synchronize these sequential computations. Since we know that sight images require about 50 milliseconds, then the signals from each photoreceptor must "circulate" in the brain about 50 times before serving its complete function. This indicates the involvement of a significant portion of the brain in a series of sequential computations with a constant input data rate being part of that computation.

To further confuse the issue, the "connections" between the nerve cells undergo physical change with use. A connection not used withers. A connection used often becomes strong. The brain is born with a program. At least a part of that program changes with time and frequency of use. Does this mean that even instincts may be educated? In a sense, yes. The intellectual portion of the brain may be trained to control the instinct. If there is constant intellectual lingering on an emotion, such as sexual desire, then the emotion (instinct) is extended into the intellectual portion of the brain, in the form of permanent connections there. This is what causes sexual addiction and is proof that pornography effects behavior. The nerve cells which form an instinct do not receive new information, they are a fixed transmitter ready to respond with its signal on request (similar to a computer ROM). Virtuous behavior, one that controls sexual thought, diminishes the connections. Virtuous behavior may be taught (by reward and punishment, not by feel-good teaching). Sexual promiscuity is now being taught (by deriding virginity-a punishment and "understanding" sexual activity-a reward). We even pay cash rewards for promiscuity.


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Neural System Output drivers

Wait! You may say. What keeps us from moving like a jerky movie robot, what with all those digital signals? The answer is a special adaptation of the nerve cell when its output is intended to drive a muscle. The sketch below shows one of these in schematic form:

The nerve cell body and the axon are the same as the standard nerve cell discussed above. The terminals, though, are connected directly into the muscle tissue. The muscle contracts when an electrical potential is applied. If a pulse was used, the muscle would twitch. The signal it needs is an analog one, one which varies in electrical potential, thereby controlling the amount and speed of the muscle contraction, but the input signals to the cell are pulses. This nerve cell performs that function by summing the number of pulses received into a varying voltage, a voltage which is proportional to the speed of the incoming pulses. It is a pulse rate to voltage converter, a known function in digital audio conversion. Each time the axon is triggered, a given charge is introduced into its inner channel. That charge requires a finite time to bleed off. If additional charges are added during that bleed off time, they will accumulate in the axon. The chart below shows this buildup to a given voltage corresponding with a given input trigger rate.

The darker lines show the incoming pulses with time, the lighter line shows the buildup of the output controlling voltage. The pulse rate shown is about 800 pulses per second and the output voltage reaches a constant of about twice the peak pulse voltage. As the pulse rate from the brain varies, the electrical potential in the axon terminals vary and the muscle tightens and relaxes.

As a side interest, adaptations of this system provide the electric eel with his shocking power.


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DNA as a Digital Memory Device

The DNA within each cell of an organism contains the description of that entire organism. In that sense it is a memory device, one which is repeated in each cell. When a cell replicates, the DNA which is a part of that cell, also replicates.

As it is used in the cells of an organism, various patterns in the DNA provide instructions for the manufacturing of various proteins. The cell, in which the DNA giving the instructions resides, then produces that protein in the designated amounts. These proteins are used in the construction and repair of the body of the organism.

The genome of a given organism is therefore a particular set of knowledge (information, instructions, memory) in DNA format which describes in detail the physical and neural construction of the organism. This knowledge is then replicated throughout the body of the organism and is passed down to future generations of the organism. Since it can replicate, we say it is alive. DNA, therefore, is a living form of digital memory.

The human genome is about 3 billion base pairs in length. Each base pair has four possible conditions (A, G, C and T). There are two sets in each cell in the human body. This is equivalent to a computer hard disk with a capacity of 1.5 gigabytes in each cell, an enormous sub-microscopic ROM (read only memory), sufficient for two sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica. A thumb-sized organ specifically designed for knowledge recall should some day be possible, one which could contain all of the factual knowledge of the modern human. Formed in the brain at birth, it would be useful throughout the life of the human.

Questions about access are still unanswered. The organism body uses a system of area selection which activates the gene necessary for that particular location of the cell. It, in effect, reads out that portion of memory. In mapping genomes in the laboratory, it is necessary to determine the sequence of the DNA, exactly the same process needed for reading out a memory. Phospholipid membranes will transport electric charges making them a possibility for interrogation of an organic memory. These and many other avenues must be explored. Many different access systems will be needed since not only are these memory systems needed in the organism body, the same system would have industrial and commercial applications.


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URL: http://www.onelife.com/evolve/digman.html