Sunday, February 04, 2007

What links these links?

Evolution appears to accelerate over time, and new scientific evidence suggests this is due to bacteria exchanging genes - but not within their own species, but horizontally, between groups. Thus, the total rate at which genetic information is exchanged can be faster than that provided by sexual reproduction and random mutations alone.

Horizontal information exchange - it's also the way ideas spread if you let them. Like cafés, lab corridors, open-source software, remixes, and (sadly) 4th-generation warfare's cooperating IED teams. And it's what built your immune system:
"We know that the majority of the DNA in the genomes of some animal and plant species – including humans, mice, wheat and corn – came from HGT insertions," Deem said. "For example, we can trace the development of the adaptive immune system in humans and other jointed vertebrates to an HGT insertion about 400 million years ago."

The new mathematical model developed by Deem and visiting professor Jeong-Man Park attempts to find out how HGT changes the overall dynamics of evolution. In comparison to existing models that account for only point mutations or sexual recombination, Deem and Park's model shows how HGT increases the rate of evolution by propagating favorable mutations across populations...

"Life clearly evolved to store genetic information in a modular form, and to accept useful modules of genetic information from other species," Deem said.
Meanwhile, Thomas P.M. Barnett's slow march into the arena of the shrill continues. He advocates a Danish- or Scandinavian-style combination of a welfare state with deregulation, but his personal development isn't what concerns me here, inspiring as it is to watch a Republican caterpillar unfurl the wings of shrillness. What got me was this..
Then there’s this lurid fascination with the top 1 percent who are cleaning up--Michael Jordan style--as the search for global talent gets hotter and hotter. But that’s a hard one to curtail, since the rising complexity of managing global corps simply drives up the cost of effective leadership.

I mean, who wants less effective leadership of these globe-spanning industry leaders?
How much of this is really just the well-known phenomenon that every inefficiency creates its own constituency? After all, it's not the complexity of their activities that increases with global reach and greater scale - it's the complexity of the organisation. Hierarchical information loss, diseconomies of scale, and conflicting interests make the task so much harder, so many fewer people could tackle it, and hence the economic rent to them increases. Alternatively, the same factors select those people who can manipulate the hierarchy in order to extract more money.

"Managing increasing complexity" is very close to "managing the management", which is a self-licking lollipop. The answer is to make the organisation more simple. Moving on, there used to be a British police organisation, the National High-Tech Crime Unit, that acted as technical advisor to police forces in the UK. Recently, the government created a big, complex new organisation, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which subsumed it. Now, the Association of Chief Police Officers wants to recreate a small, expert group outside SOCA to advise police forces on NHTCU's old job.

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