The Symbiont Host, Evolution, Data, Voices & Second Life

Symbiont Host (moderate)

Today’s explorations resulted in one of those “omg Honour has gone off on a wild tangent” thought processes that occasionally plague me and this blog. Sorry! You can as always just skip the verbiage and look at the pictures. :)

It began innocently as I wandered through Symbiont Host↑, Sea Mizin’s↑ installation at LEA↑. Sea has created art as a result of contemplating a new look at evolution in Virology (no, seriously!).

We now know the human genome is composed of 50% ancient retroviral (RNA) particles and up to an additional 8-10% RNA fully-coded genes that has given us the ability to grow babies within a placenta. This RNA initiates our ability to replicate sexually, transcribe, and repair our genome, all of which is held in the very stable form of DNA.

On the other hand, RNA is highly unstable, prone to high rates of mutation that have the ability to change our not just our genome, but all DNA genomes. We are built of endogenous RNA that has incorporated itself into every cell.

Is it possible to know what new species are on the horizon? What significance is HIV-1 to human sperm? What have we learned from past endogenous retroviral insertions to our genome? Not all these questions have answers, yet we could begin asking them now. More importantly, what approach — if any — is appropriate?

Symbiont Host (moderate)

For some reason this exhibit brought to mind two different comments I saw yesterday on Twitter. The first was a mention of a new “social network” and the other was on the “explosion of data” inherent in and resulting from the internet.

Topics have a tendency to morph as they bounce around my brain cells – it’s like going to Youtube to listen to Eric Clapton and winding up (a dozen videos later) viewing vintage Edith Piaf. The progression makes perfect sense at the time. :)

I started to think about not the “data” but the amount of “information” that is created daily. Years ago a colleague would explain the difference to clients by saying that; 342836 is data, 34 28 36 is information. Not a particularly feminist approach I admit but he was old school.

Every social network, smart phone, blogging tool and forum gives us a chance to say something. We don’t just use one of them either – we use many and the number of people and the number of avenues for expression continue to rise. The sheer volume of voices and messages is overwhelming. Carl Sagan’s↑ famous attempt to impress on us the size of the universe would (I think) be inadequate to describe the extent of sharing – profound or otherwise – that is taking place.

Understand I don’t think this is a bad thing. Before the days of wide spread literacy and then mass communication information came from few sources. Those with the ability to do so influenced the rest because of their privileged position and their voices were the important ones because they were the only ones “heard”.

Symbiont Host (moderate)

When mass communication was restricted to media networks we still had few sources and most of our voices were inhibited by access to venues for publication or dissemination. (Yes I’m taking a superficial approach to this but it’s a blog not a dissertation.)

The evolution of technology has given a larger percentage of the population a means to add our voices to the world wide conversation and share. In many cases, of course, that sharing seems to involve bodily functions, bad jokes, sexual escapades and the minutae of daily lives.

The quantity of both voices and the information they produce is so great that we filter it (we won’t even get to “accuracy” or “truth” or judgement calls). Often only those things which are titillating get through. So we might now have a method for communicating with the globe but we’re competing with each other for the limited hearing cells and attention spans of  everybody else using this technology.

I concluded from this mental rambling that, although the evolution of the internet (and related applications) has made it possible for us to reach out and communicate with everybody, we are still only able to reach a limited number of individuals. Oh there are those who have millions of followers on platforms like Twitter but they are few in comparison with the number of registered accounts.

Symbiont Host (moderate)

At one time most of our voices were only heard by those in our small village while the country we inhabited was influenced by the educated few who had access to the limited means of communication available. Now we have access to the mechanisms but the number of people using them means, for most of us, we still don’t have much of an audience.

What worries me is that there are voices out there who need to be heard. People with brilliant ideas or terrible problems that get ignored or lost or shouted down in the excited chattering about the latest celebrity scandal. The people who need to hear them don’t.

Organizations and individuals who want to “get their message out” try to catch the wave of “viral”. It’s seemingly the only hope they have of reaching the size of audience they want. Occasionally it happens and sometimes a smart idea gets through. There are examples of even more infrequent incidents where cries for help were heard. I’m quite certain though that most experience the “tree falls in the forest” phenomenon. Nobody is listening and so no sound was made.

I don’t have an answer but I’m convinced that today’s technology is not providing the solution. At least not yet. The data is being captured – the information isn’t being heard.

We typically solve large problems one small step at a time. Within Second Life there are thousands and thousands of voices. Each of us has a relatively small network and I think it would be a good idea to work from there. Actively seek to increase our contacts – don’t do the “humble brag” of having too many “friends”. Actually listen to the people we meet and catch up with those we haven’t heard from lately. We might stumble on something important.

Symbiont Host (moderate)
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