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 Sujet du message: Algorithmic Inelegance
MessagePosté: 13 Jan 2008, 11:52 
I, Robot
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SeedMagazine a écrit:
Algorithmic Inelegance

Complexity in living things is a product of the lack of direction in evolutionary processes, of the accumulation of fortuitous accidents, rather than the product of design.

by PZ Myers • Posted January 7, 2008 09:15 AM

Image
Fruit flies show how general and global patterning mechanisms can be shaped by evolution into particular, specific, and local control. Illustration by Alison Schroeer

Many years ago, I wrote software to supplement my income, and I know well the satisfaction of writing code, seeing it execute, and seeing functionality unfold on the computer screen. There's something deeply appealing about making logic manifest and producing tools that do intense computational work for you at the click of a button; there can also be something deeply obsessive about being able to hone software to make it more elegant and efficient and, to the programmer's eye, more beautiful. The designers of software usually aspire to economy of code, clarity in its operation, and powerful algorithms that, with mathematical and logical beauty, do the work of generating a sophisticated result. We tend to look down on the "kludge," the clumsy addition to fix a problem, or the brute force approach of working case by case to force a desired result (although, to be sure, I've seen enough code to know that the awkward hack is ubiquitous).

Now I'm a full-time developmental biologist, and unsurprisingly, I see similar expectations in myself and in my colleagues. We don't have the power to design embryos, but we do analyze [next >].


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