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Cells Are Not Computers and DNA Is Not a Programming Language (Stanford Seminar) (youtube.com)
36 points by da02 on Jan 26, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 4 comments



As a caveat, I only watched the first ~25 minutes of this video in detail. After that I skimmed every few minutes of the rest. As far as I can tell, the majority of the time is random panel members talking about stuff and very little is truly devoted to the subject alluded to in the title in any meaningful way. I found the video fairly worthless (or at least far too unfocused to be worthy of anyone's time).

At best, the little that focused on the title seemed to define "computers" and "programming language" in a fairly rigid way in order to make the claim in the title true, but everyone already knows that. There are clearly many complexities (known and many more unknown) in how all the different processes surrounding DNA work and many of those processes don't really have simple counterparts in our common implementations of computers and programming languages, but at an abstract level the analogies certainly are there.


The relation between DNA and programming is extraordinarily messy and complex as far as I know, and I am far from knowing lots.

Certainly, ordinary programming as it exists now can't be applied with ordinary tech to cells.

But if cell do all sort of computer-like-tasks, if they can be recursive or whatnot, what is a richer paradigm than programming that expresses their qualities. From the video, simply hear vagueness like "evolution" and "curing" and etc.

It like cells and biological objects are on the other side of what Paul Allen calls the "complexity brake" but I don't see how that implies they're not like computers, just that they are computers that we will have to develop a variety of distinct tools to program.


Nice to see a rebuttal to the other article.

"The [complicated topic] is just like [fashionable technology]" trope is beyond tired.


It certainly isn’t a rebuttal.

Did you read the article you are referring to? [0] It opens with ”If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail”, acknowledging the limitations of the vision it builds.

And the top upvoted comment on HN makes sure to add on another layer: “Its analogies are pretty solid, even if they are just analogies. It's a well-described snapshot of the early phase of education where this helps build a grand intuition and relations between disciplines. Just be careful to remember that they're just analogies, and in general can't be relied on to actually discover, invent, design or conclude.“

Metaphors and analogies is one of the ways how humans understand the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as the limitations (“can't be relied on to actually discover, invent, design or conclude”) of that approach are kept in mind.

The overt cynicism of your comment misses the entire point.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16233644




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