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Biological systems

Experts in adaptation

Biological systems have been developed over millions of years, learning to deal with changes in climate and environment, and adapting to what foods are available and what predators to avoid.

While the evolution of biological systems has been a very long process, the advantage of them over mineral systems is their ability to adapt relatively quickly, to the point of being able to manipulate mineral systems for their own ends.

Biological systems develop because they have to survive in a swarm of biological systems. Their environments do not stay fixed, so they cannot just remain the same. Some parts of their form remain fairly stable, but other parts are able to change their characteristics and behaviour to suit their needs at the time.

However, having to be aware of every little change and respond would require a lot of effort, yet they must also handle massive changes as well. Biological systems get around this by being able to adapt the thresholds at within which, or outside which, they will respond. This enables an organism to have some relative internal calm even while much is going on around them, yet allows quick response to particular changes around them.

For example, most creatures that live in swarms, like birds, can go about their individual concerns even while there is cacophony around them, but respond if a predator is sensed to be doing something that might not be good for the individual's survival.

An example: earsβ–³

Biological systems can adapt to varying thresholds because their sensing mechanisms are adaptable. An example of this is ears, where the analogue sounds it is to sense can vary over a very wide range.

The mechanism in ears is translating the incoming analog sounds to a digital representation for transmission to the brain. Each ear has about 2000 hairs which each only respond to a particular range of frequencies. The loudness of the sound is encoded in the frequency of pulses sent to the brain from the transducers for each hair. This is known as pulse frequency modulation (PFM).

Ears adapt to changes in volume by slowly shifting the pulse frequency, so if a louder sound continues for a while, the frequency will be slowly reduced in order to reduce the amount of information the brain has to deal with. So a sound can be responded to, but if it continues, it can be tuned out to.

The mechanism caters for a wide range of levels by making the level to pulse frequency relationship non-linear, so that a sound of twice the energy only sounds marginally louder. This logarithmic relationship is fairly constant throughout the whole range of levels, but high and low frequencies are adjusted to be less sensitive at lower levels. That is a lot of sophistication for a few cells at the base of a few hairs!

In contrast, we build sound recording systems using minerals, which once built, cannot really adapt. They have to be built to handle the full range of sounds we want to record, producing the same amount of information no matter the loudness or complexity of the sounds.

There are systems to compress sounds for playback, but these tend to get rid of information that has been found to be of less importance to us when listening to sound. This process is termed lossy, but it is basically built to track the type of process our ears use. We fool the ears while they fool our brains!

Directed adaptationβ–³

The process of adaptation in biological systems is mostly done automatically as a result of the organisms focussing upon their needs at the time.

If the organisms don't do much differently from day to day, they don't adapt much. Some of the oldest species on earth have not evolved much in that time because they didn't need to change anything to survive, mainly because their environments didn't change.

Adaptation can be directed, but the organism needs to a be able to reason, which is only in the province of humans and a few animals. Reasoning helps in the process of deciding why a change is required and how to go about it. Basically, we make up new needs and our biology adapts. Through this we have seen massive increases in what people are physically capable of over the last 100 years.

We have largely used our reasoning to build mineral systems, and more lately, installing rudimentary reasoning systems to enable those mineral systems to adapt. However, in this process, we have shifted adaptation away from our biology.

In effect, we have been dumbing ourselves down, counter to evolution, and making ourselves more dependent upon mineral systems, to the detriment of ourselves and the planet because building those inflexible and short-lived mineral systems has exceeded the planet's capacity to adapt to us. It is a huge minero-biological system that we are making unsuitable for the biological part.

If we are to evolve, rather than devolve, we need to bring the adaptation back under each individual's conscious control. We do need to understand how to work with minerals in order to provide a good environment for ourselves, but we must not let ourselves be slaves to it. This is why humanities is needed, as we need to adapt how we organise ourselves, in how we think and how we relate to each other. As we study these, we will be in a much better position, individually and collectively, to decide what mineral systems we actually need.

Misdirected identificationβ–³

In effect, we have been rating ourselves in terms of what we make instead of what we are, and even limiting ourselves by identifying with what we make.

We are not what we make. What we make reflects our capabilities, which is what we are. However, many rate themselves by the magnitude of what they make, but the actual capabilities involved are not different whether one makes a full sized item or a working scaled-down model of it. It is this unnecessary aggrandisement of output that has created many of our problems. If we are to evolve in harmony with this planet, we need to bring our consciousness into our selves, by making our creative selves larger, and leaving the planet alone.

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