Wednesday, September 10, 2008

life online

Could Life Evolve on the Internet?

By Brandon Keim EmailSeptember 09, 2008 | 7:50:23 PMCategories: ComplexityEvolutionSystems Biology  

If principles of life are universal, could life emerge on the internet?

I posed the question to evolutionary dynamicist Martin Nowak of Harvard University, developer of amathematical model of evolution's origins, the period during which unique chemical structures experienced mutation and selection that guided them toward replication -- and thus to life.

Though Nowak's focus is biological life, the principles seem broadly applicable, perhaps even to configurations of electrons coursing through the Internet's silicon and fiber-optic substrate.

"Computer viruses are some form of evolution," said Nowak.

Alphaamanitinrna_polymerase_ii_comp"Viruses fulfill replication, mutation and selection -- but people don't consider them to be alive, because they think life has to be made of chemicals," saidIrene Chen, a Harvard systems biologist who specializes in early biomolecules.

"We can definitely make things in a computer that fulfill the criteria for life that NASA uses, except it's not chemical," she added, and cited the AVIDAprogram at Michigan State...

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