From: J. Maynard Gelinas <j.maynard.gelinas.nul> Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2012 13:08:38 +0800 Archived: Wed, 07 Mar 2012 08:27:12 -0500 Subject: Manipulating A Target Host's Fitness Function Speculative: On Indirectly Manipulating a Target Host's Fitness Function In A Static Environment This is a followup to two prior posts: Sampling Earth's Biodiversity: http://www.ufoupdateslist.com/2012/feb/m27-005.shtml Biosphere Computational Modeling: http://www.ufoupdateslist.com/2012/mar/m01-007.shtml In both posts, I suggested that useful solutions to complex morphological problems from the molecular to the macro scale could be computationally modeled using Genetic Algorithms with the Earth's biosphere as the simulation habitat. By manipulating a target host's fitness function, a range of potential solutions to varying morphological and functional problems could thus be derived over time. This is then extrapolated to a speculative 'Extraterrestrial Intent' for repeated visitations observed and recorded since antiquity. However, one issue not deeply explored is just how a 'fitness function' might be manipulated to generate a given selection pressure since the Earth's biosphere is assumed to be static and immutable. This post will suggest a potential method to resolve that deficit in the proposal. For background, in implementing genetic algorithms, one doesn't engineer a final solution. One instead selects an optimal outcome for a given starting point, be it a software program or a simulated biological organism. Mechanisms of control and morphology are implemented in simulated 'genes', which then iteratively derive solutions to a given selection pressure one generation at a time. Those simulated hosts which don't meet the selection criteria are then culled and another generation born. Over time, generation by generation, the target 'evolves' closer and closer to the final optimal outcome, often 'discovering' a range of counter-intuitive solutions to the same problem. It's essentially an iterative approximation by stochastic walk process. However, human engineered simulated environments used in genetic programming typically directly affect the environment to impact a target host's fitness function. Hypothetical aliens using Earth's biosphere would not have that option, as the system is much too big to directly control. So what alternative process might these hypothetical aliens use to set a target organism's fitness function? Richard Dawkins' _The Extended Phenotype,_ first published in 1982, may offer some insight. That said, however, I don't have the text handy for citation as my books are currently being shipped overseas. The best I can offer is this meager wikipedia reference about the text: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Extended_Phenotype Dawkins' work is associated with his insight and proposal that selection occurs at the gene level rather than at the group organism level. He referred to this idea as the 'Selfish Gene' and wrote a well known book of the same title in 1976. That is, the _individual gene_ is conserved, not the organism or group. This became a central debate between evolutionary biologists across the 1970s and 1980s, most famously culminating in a series of debates between Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins prior to Gould's untimely death by cancer in 2002. That debate is still ongoing today. Wikipedia has a good overview of Dawkins' idea. Scientific American published a good debate perspective from the Group Selection model as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=whats-good-for- the-group Regardless of which side of the selection debate to which one prefers to adhere, the central concept behind _The Extended Phenotype_ may still be relevant to this thought experiment. And that is, that individual gene selection shifts in the environment of one organism may be manipulated by the web of interacting organisms within its environment. Any one organism faces a twofold environment, one that is generally fixed or at least changes very slowly - such as ambient oxygen content, temperature range, water availability, etc. The second environmental challenge is thus made of the range and density of prey, competing and parasitic organisms the initial organism faces in its daily environment. That is not fixed, it may change rapidly from generation to generation (or even within a generation), thus shifting the environmental landscape on short notice. Prey, competing and parasitic organisms thus represent a web of complex feedback loop interactions, similar to Norbert Weiner's perspective on cybernetics, which over time reach a certain equilibrium only when the combination of climatological and organism level interactions reach a steady-state in their collective environment. Thus, from the opposite perspective of the target organism, that is from the perspective of its prey, competitors, and parasites in an open environment, Dawkins' idea may also represent a means to intentionally shift phenotypic expression expression of a target organism by genetically modifying prey, competitors, and parasites to force second order changes in the target's environment. This would then represent a shift in selection pressure, thus demanding a new fitness function for the target organism. From this perspective, hypothetical aliens might intervene not at the climatological level - which would be very energy intensive and difficult to achieve - but instead by modifying the ecological web around that organism toward a directed computational goal. Implications (assuming the ideas in these posts hold merit): - By humanity conducting a bio-sampling operation of our own, it may well be possible to: a) Discern whether genetic level changes of target organisms and their secondary interactors are - in fact - being genetically modified with intent or are simply shifting their genes due to naturally changing environmental conditions. Thus, it may fit within the framework of a falsifiable hypothesis. b) Assuming the potential hypothesis is valid, it may then be possible to discern the final output goals - or at least intermediary steps - of whomever may be implementing these organism level shifts. There are two approaches based on available observation: 1) We already know the target organism. For example, if it is assumed that cows are a target due to repeated observation of mutilation cases, it may be possible to sample the cow's food, its prey, and its parasites, to then discern over time what ultimate phenotypic shift is desired by those conducting the operation. 2) We desire a search for new target organisms. By conducting random samples of organisms throughout the environment, upon discovering those which have been intentionally modified, it may be possible to backtrack the ecological web to thus discern new targets. From there one could use option 1) to then discern those goals as well. c) With the knowledge derived from a) and b), it may be possible to perform a counter-operation to thus interfere with the process and successful achievement of those goals by whomever may be conducting such a program. Thoughts? J. Maynard Gelinas Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast At: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/sdi/program/ These contents above are copyright of the author and UFO UpDates - Toronto. They may not be reproduced without the express permission of both parties and are intended for educational use only.
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