is DNA stupid?

Hi,
I listening to a TV program on BBC education, and I'm told that human genome has been decoded and to the surprise of everyone, we are very similar to a chimpanzee.
There are over 40,000 genes.
About 20,000 are active in the brain.
The trouble is, as an information technologist, I have to invoke here Shannon's theory of information, and say its impossible for 20,000 bits of information to make up a human personality. We have deep thoughts, we have debates, we make and use tools, we do sports, we drive cars, and we do many things that simply cannot be created out of 20,000 bits of information.
The genome data and Shannon's theory of information is telling us DNA is stupid.
Is DNA stupid?
Otherwise, where does all the information that distinguishes rich variety of human personaly get stored in the DNA? The only other route is downloading of information from mother to child through the umbelical cord.
(But I discount that because animals that are created from eggs have no umbelical cord from which to download a personality.)
[OK there is also the religious way of putting it,andthatisthatsoulssomehowfindand takeupresidenceinourbrains.]
Got some feedback in another newsgroup.
Some people thought that mind is conditioned. i.e. you learn everything. Problem with that is a result due to Chomsky disagrees with that. There isn't enough time to learn all the things we have learned by say age of 2. Around 95% must be built in.
The other problem is that anyone trying to build a learning machine will know by now that a. you need to build the machine itself b. you need to program it to learn
All of these imply software is built into the brain at the time of its construction. That means DNA has to code for a learning system. But there isn't enough information in DNA to do that.
J
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On Mon, 05 Jul 2004 15:59:18 GMT, e7

The surprise of "everyone?" Hardly.

The elements of DNA that have been "decoded" principally encode proteins. Think of it as a shopping list for a bag of parts. For an admittedly simplistic analogy, you can use the same steel, rubber, copper, and plastic to make a toy car or an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. How the material is used is at least (if not more) important as is what material is available.

Genes are not the active elements with respect to information storage, any more than is the bill of materials that lists all the parts that are used to construct, for example, a computer. Genes are the list, proteins are the parts and it's how they are assembled that matters.

Sure but that's a strawman argument. You assert something that's patently untrue and then are shocked, shocked that it's untrue.

No, but I'll refrain from inserting a snide remark about who may be.

Chi, what an interesting concept! (OK, bad pun.) Gross conceptual error, of course.

Congratulations on rediscovering Cartesian dualism.

Bull hockey. 95% of what? Quantum mechanics or intestinal peristalsis?

There you go, flogging that same, poor strawman again.
--
Rich Webb Norfolk, VA

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Rich Webb wrote:

Herein lies crux of the argument. Where are the active elements for information storage? Particularly for personality.
J
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On Mon, 05 Jul 2004 18:07:53 GMT, e7

There is no "argument." There does, however, appear to be intentional obfuscation and misdirection.
To carry your "argument" to its logical [1] conclusion, all matter in the human brain is composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons. As an "information technologist" you must surely realize that Shannon's Theorem tells us that 3 bits [2] is inadequate to encode very much information, so clearly there must be something supernatural going on.
[1] I use the word guardedly. [2] The equivalence of "number of constituents" and "number of bits" is used in the same (incorrect) sense as in the original posting.
--
Rich Webb Norfolk, VA

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Neural connections, mostly.
There are roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain, with roughly 1,000 connections to each neuron, as well as a few thousand knowns psychoactive chemicals at work. The brain processes roughly a billion bits of input data per second and can output roughly 10,000 bits per second. The genome that is used to construct this brain has a few billion bits, and the brain is rather lacking in capability when the genes have finished and learning starts.
You might wish to look at these webpages.
http://archive.keyboardonline.com/options/bandwidth.shtml http://www.transhumanist.com/volume1/moravec.htm http://www.cs.rochester.edu/users/faculty/dana/csc240_Fall97/Ass6/Denise_Sawicki.html
--
Guy Macon, Electronics Engineer & Project Manager for hire.
Remember Doc Brown from the _Back to the Future_ movies? Do you
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Guy Macon <http://www.guymacon.com wrote:

20,000 genomes provide concentration gradients to allow neurons to grow in a particular way. But there isn't enough genes to control the specific wiring (i.e. the programming of the neural net). Even the ability to learn is a complex piece of software that must be programmed into the neurons before it becomes a learning machine.
In other words, if you or I were to try to grow 100 billion neurons, with 10,000 connections each by this method, we would grow a perfect vegetable. There would be no personality in that vegetable because none of the wiring will have anything to do with a properly programmed neural net that is able to develop and become a human by learning all the things that humans can learn.
So we are still back to the same question. Is DNA stupid? If not were is the information stored in the DNA to program the neurons?
J
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And somewhere around the time of 07/05/2004 16:11, the world stopped and listened as e7 contributed the following to humanity:

Here we go...
That's part of life itself. The DNA directs whether the cell will become a human or a monkey. The DNA also contains the instructions for the cell to maintain life. The cell is a molecular computer, and the DNA is the software that it executes. But, from what I under stand, the actual data is stored in RNA.
In the womb, between 3 and 6 months, is the period where the brain's circuitry is being initially laid out. As the nurons grow and connect to each other, they fire off more or less randomly. There are other factors as well, such as external influences outside the womb, which also help to shape neuron development. The neurons are not the only cells in the brain that process information either. There are support cells which structurely support the neurons that seems to dictate the connections between neurons. The learning software for the neurons/support cells, are hardwired in to those cells. Once the child is born, you have more or less a clean slate with a few basic instincts necessary to sustain life, and more or less ready to learn new things.
Now as to HOW those instincts are programmed in, I have no clue, other than to say that it is genetic. Everything after birth is more or less learned. As the child learns, new connections between neurons are formed, and new RNA sequences that get attached to those neurons is generated. The personality of the child is formed usually within the first 5 years of life. There is also a whole slew of psycoactive chemicals, endorphins, neurotransmitters, etc. that are active in the brain to also regulate the functioning of the various cells.
About the support cells having a role in learning, see the Scientific Atlanta article called "Have scientists missed half the brain?"
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Daniel Rudy

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e7 wrote:

------------------------ You're not getting it, awareness is an emergent property of the many copies of something quite simple that DNA makes mindlessly.

------------------------ Which is what a newborn is. The synapses are unpatterned, and the immediately begin to grow and to weight their synaptic weighting functions. The brain's sections are arranged to yield responses to experience that permit the brain to learn to think as we do.

---------------- We are programmed by experiences.

----------------------------- Yes, DNA is stupid, Reality programs the neurons, and the process of programming them is called Your Life!!
-Steve
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The more interesting case (especially to robot builders) is the insects. They have brains that are hardwired and have far fewer connections, yet they have an astonishing range of behaviors.
--
Guy Macon, Electronics Engineer & Project Manager for hire.
Remember Doc Brown from the _Back to the Future_ movies? Do you
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R. Steve Walz wrote:

NO - its already highly patterned.
That is a resonable enough argument - hower it has serious problems. DNA is not variable enough to pass on human diversity. 99% is the same as a chimp. The synapses must already be weighted in advance (i.e. programmed in advance), otherwise, you start with a vegetable. According to Chomsky, 95% of the human functionality is already programmed in before it is born. By year 2, there is no way a child can do 95% of all the things it does by learning.
You go to your friends house and you have not been there before. You can ask a 2 year old to go into the kitchen and help with washing up. That means picking up all the plates, putting it in the water, cleaning it, and then drying it, and putting it on the shelf.
Computer program to do an equal task - yeah right! You would be lucky if you can locate this new kitchen defining and avoiding all the obstacles on the way. Then incredibly lucky if you could define and separate dirty plates from clean plates. Even more difficult is to clean, visually separating out patterns on the plate with dirt on the plate. Then you have to locate the sink and the tap. Do the washing up, dry the plates, locate the shelves, and put them into the shelf in a stacking order that doesn't defy gravity.
Who the hell had the time to write software for all this? There are millions of microscopic and very diverse computed rules that must be obeyed every minute of every day before you have reasonable human behaviour. According to Chomsky, 95% is already programmed in. Once we start identifying all the rules, it becomes quickly apparent that (a) nobody taught the child those rules and (b) there isn't enough time to put in 95% of the rules.
Human DNA is 99% same with chimp. There is only 20,000 odd genes active in the brain. OK each gene is complex, but its the same between humans and chimps. There is nowhere to fit human software if 99% is the same as a chimp! That 1% doesn't have enough terrabytes to store human rules of computing. But according to Chomsky, 95% had to be programmed in. So where is all the software stored if it can't be learned in the time allocated, and may not be stored in the DNA?
The entire genome I have on one CD. If I were to count up AGCT and then work out the number of bits, I would have may be a few hundred megabytes of information. I just don't see constructing a human out of that with 95% pre-programmed human behaviour.
J
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There is a big art of you problem right there. Chomsky is an idiot. You should be reading Marvin Minsky instead. http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky /
BTW, I am still waiting for you to admit that you were wrong about how many bits there are in the human genome. Are you capable of admitting error?
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Guy Macon wrote:

---------------- You ARE teasing, aren't you? This guy is the Crank: J. Michael, the guy who prated around here about "Fractal Robots" a year or so ago!
-Steve
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e7 wrote:

--------------- No, you only need begin with a near vegetable which can learn, in other words, a baby!!

---------------------------------- 1) You don't understand Chomsky. 2) Chomsky doesn't understand Genetics or Complex Adaptive Systems, he's a semanticist and linguist.

------------------ You can ask, but 2-y/os don't do this at all well.

--------------------- Now if only one guy had to code all that, sure, he would take a very long time. How nice it is instead for billions of neurons to regrow and reshape their synapses and weight functions totally spontaneously in response to experience as their only biological function, and to burn as much as 30 Watts continuously doing so, and to do this well because they evolved to do only and exactly that, and nothing else. You weren't really so delusional or superstitious that you were willing to relegate all this to something supernatural, do you, when you don't yet have cause to??
All that would be is giving up!! Our brains DO do this, and they ARE formed from DNA instructions, and we Do start out stupid and we DO INDEED LEARN all that we finally come to know!!

------------------ Nature does, and the process is called our lives.

------------------ No wonder it's not always reasonable, yours for instance, J. Michael!!

-------------------- According to him, the CAPACITY for it is programmed in. He's NOT a biologist or geneticist, nor is he an AI programmer.

------------------------------- That's because it doesn't have to, you idiot!
-Steve
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I just told you that there are a a few billion bits of information in the human genome, and yet you repeated your "20,000" claim. Please provide evidence that you are educable.
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e7 wrote:

------------------ Synapses.
-Steve
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Who said a gene is a bit? Your argument falls down right there.
PeterS
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Spam Magnet wrote:

Sorry Peter, I chose my words carefully. If I had 20,000 symbols, no matter how complex they are, if I can't change each symbol, then the information content of that symbol may as well be just one bit.
I know genes have a lot more information riding on them, but they are not programmable, hence, difficult to pass any information through them.
J
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Well, Ok, let's take your binary argument, and look at the possibilities; 2^20000 is what? About 10^6000? (back of a beer-mat calculation) Particles in the Universe? 10^100? A bit less maybe? That's an *awful* lot of ways of arranging things.
PeterS Remove my PANTS to reply.
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Spam Magnet wrote:

Not really - it just leads to one number. We need enough memory to write a program. You couldn't write a wordprocessor program with 20,000 bits (or about 2.5k bytes).
J
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e7 wrote:

---------------- Now you're being stubborn and obtuse, like a crank.
A gene is NOT a bit, it encodes a protein, and a protein has a VERY complicateed behavior born in the nature of atoms themselves, not merely genes taken as bits. The DNA does NOT have to know how atoms work!
I'll bet you have your whole philosophy invested in this and now you're going to blather on for months about it, instead of accepting what you were told by people who know lots more than you do about it.
-Steve
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