[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!
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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