I’ve started this blog to explore some ideas that have been developing since my early grad school days. Soon after my arrival in Albuquerque in 1994 I started thinking about the relationships between computers and living systems. Inspired by my Ph.D. advisor, Stephanie Forrest and fellow UNM faculty member David Ackley, and in collaboration with many fellow grad students (including my longtime collaborator Steve Hofmeyr, Patrik D’haeseleer, and many others over the years), we developed a set of ideas that informed most of our later work. We managed to publish papers on computer immune systems and strategies for adding diversity to software. Individually we’ve each made progress on several of our ideas. Also, many other researchers found our ideas interesting and built upon them. That has been, overall, a good thing (although there have been significant exceptions). Unfortunately, what we published was only a small fraction of what was in our heads. And as time passes I’ve come to realize that we cannot hope to get these ideas out there through scientific papers, or even through Ph.D. theses. Each work is a small sliver of the vision, and when split from the whole inevitably it loses much of its explanatory power and inspiring force.
There’s just one problem: this “vision” I refer to is, up to this point, only a fuzzy set of interconnected ideas—a worldview, really. I can have entire technical conversations with others who have shared that environment that are virtually unintelligible to outsiders, even if they are experts in biology, computer science, or both. That in itself is unremarkable; what is unusual, though, is that these conversations often lead to ideas that have been barely touched upon in the research literature.
I believe these ideas deserve to be explored, and further, I believe they hold the key for resolving fundamental challenges in both computer science and biology. So rather than trying to get the vision out piecemeal, I want to go wholesale. Hence this blog.
To begin with I’ll just be posting essays, and I hope other “UNM folk” will come to visit and contribute comments. In the future, I hope others will also become contributors.
I also welcome comments from others; if you do decide to post, however, keep in mind that I’m approaching this blog as a book in progress; as such, articles may be less self-contained than in other venues. But as the title of this blog suggests, I’m not sure quite yet how the essays here will turn out; instead, I merely hope that the process will lead to something worthwhile.
Also, I’m also going to be bringing together information from a lot of different areas. I’ll even be bringing in ideas from computer games – believe it or not, it all relates. 🙂 Initially I’ll often gloss over the details in order to get the basic idea out. If you are confused by a point, though, please let me know—I’m happy to go back and explain further. I consider such explanations to be useful, because they often make me re-think my assumptions and help me come up with new insights. That’s part of the reason I enjoy teaching as well.
Addendum: I first started this blog in 2007, but then I stopped posting about a year later. I relaunched the blog in November 2009, moving from Simplelog to WordPress. Because of the transition my old posts didn’t automatically carry through. Rather than just copy the old posts I’m going to revise and re-post them. Sorry about the lost comments, hopefully that won’t happen again.
Hope you enjoy the blog!
Last Updated: November 22, 2009