The Human Genre Project

Speciation: The Day REDE OS Forked

Fork (software development) In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.

Free and open source software is that which, by definition, may be forked from the original development team without prior permission [...]

Speciation Speciation is the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. The biologist Orator F. Cook seems to have been the first to coin the term 'speciation' for the splitting of lineages [...]

- Wikipedia

"So," said the team leader, "we make the purines code for one because they're bigger — that's adenine and guanine — and the pyramidine bases — cytosine and thymine — code for zero, as they're smaller. Easy, it's a natural fit. Any other suggestions?"

Jack came in quickly: "I don't understand why we have to use the natural DNA codons for the encoding the —"

"Because most of the infrastructure is already there: ribosomes, tRNA, mRNA .... Evolution has done all the work for us, we just tweak the reading—"

"But," Jack said, "if we use an entirely different code we can avoid all sorts of contamination issues. It'll keep retroviruses out, for starters. Our data will be immediately recognizable, there'll be no cross-over—"

"And we have to spend more on R&D. This way is quicker, cheaper, and most of the work is already done. You know how Bill thinks."

"It's lazy," Jack said.

"Lazy is profitable."

"It's not mimicking, it's not even imitating. It's, it's—"

"Not designed? Thus speaks an engineer."

Jack groaned.

"Look, Jack," the team leader said, "you're probably right, you're a thoughtful, careful nanogen engineer ... "

And so on, soothing and flattering.

Jack was having none of it.

"This is not a proof of concept project," he said. "What we decide here will inform the wetweb for generations. Remember Tim Berners Lee's regret over the prefix? That 'http://'? Millions of bits — and megawatts of electricity — were and are being wasted, especially because of the '://'. If we use a non-binary system — like, even just base 4! — we gain massively in simple information density. Orders of magnitude."

"And more subject to error," the team leader pointed out. "We know this system is safe because it's been used for billions of years. Billions of years of evolutionary success. Just look at us, sitting here today, discussing—"

"Yeah, we also know that it mutates! It's because of that unsafe fact that we're 'sitting here' at all. The genetic system's been selected to be partly stable over lifetimes, but differing across populations and thus changeable through eons. It's a massively parallel co-evolving system that will eat our little codonic data storage project alive!"


"We can do it properly," Jack said. "We have the parity check tech. We have the sum check algorithms. And it's a double, redundant strand, we just have to read both strands and simultaneously compare them."

"Yeah, in some mega-ribosome neuronal-reporting organelle nobody has even started to design yet."

"I don't understand why this year's profits are put ahead of a generation-long period of growth. As I said before — it's lazy."

"This from someone who doesn't shave?"

"This from someone who actually thinks."

"Start your own company, Jack."

"Thank you," said Jack. "I will." He stood up. "It'll be open source, too. Goodbye."

Meika Loofs Samorzewski