[OT] Re: [NCLUG] Linux can do THIS too??!!!

Marcio Luis Teixeira marciot at holly.colostate.edu
Sat Oct 26 11:57:17 MDT 2002

On Saturday 26 October 2002 05:02 pm, Erich wrote:
>   2. More Powerful SEX available!! Stronger and
> long-lasting.  Make your partner happ
> wow!  Open source rules!
> E

Sex and open source -- I don't think the connection is as far fetched as it 
may seem. I have a theory that the switch from closed source software to open 
source software may do for computers what the switch from asexual 
reproduction to sexual reproduction did for organisms. I do not think it is 
unrealistic to expect that open source is the first step towards enabling 
software to evolve on its own, with developers playing less of a role in 
controling the direction programming projects take. Combine open source with 
automatic merging technologies (such as those employed by CVS and BK) and I 
think you have opened up the posibility for sexual evolution to take place.

In organisms, sexual reproduction greatly accelerated evolution by allowing 
beneficial mutations from two different genetic lineages to come together, 
whereas in an asexual world, each lineage would have to come up with the 
mutation independently and beneficial mutations are gone forever when a 
particular lineage goes extinct. In the closed source world, we saw this sort 
of thing happening with software. Ideas get reinvented over and over again -- 
WordPerfect, MacWrite, and Microsoft Word were all invented independently, 
but there was no exchange of source code among them. The only saving grace of 
the current system is that developers, unlike the DNA, are able to 
reimplement ideas they see in other programs in a way in which DNA cannot do 
-- one cannot see that someone else has a genetic mutation for longevity, for 
example, and say "Cool! I'll do this on my own body as well."

In biological systems innovations propagate at the level of the genotype (the 
code) and not at the level of the phenotype (the expression of that code). In 
software, the exact opposite has long been true. Since closed source software 
prohibits the propagation of information through the genotype, it forces 
innovation to propagate through the indirect route of genotype to phenotype 
to genotype -- which is precisely what reverse-engineering and 
reimplementation do. This indirect route is impossible for DNA because it 
require a great deal of intelligence, whereas DNA is purely mechanical.

Now, open source is interesting because it opens up the possiblity for source 
code to evolve at the level of the genotype as well as at the level of the 
phenotype. The latter will continue to involve developers, whereas the former 
could well take place automatically without direct human intervention -- we 
simply need interconnected distributed version control systems that propagate 
source patches and provide automatic integration of these patches. This role 
is currently provided by the various Linux distributions, but it could be 
further automated. Inevitably, as software gets too complex for a single 
developer to understand, I think software will move increasingly towards 
evolution at the source code level, something that is very akin to sexual 
reproduction and is only made possible by open source.

I'm just kidding, BTW.

Marcio Luis Teixeira

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