Multicellular life exploits four architectural strategies
that are also emerging in multicellular computing. These strategies are
rare in single cell organisms yet are universal in multicellular
And they evolved together and work
|In Multicellular Organisms||Implications for Computing|
supersedes general behavior
Cells in biofilms, which are cooperative groups of single-cell organisms, specialize temporarily according to "quorum" cues from neighbors.
Cells in "true" multicellular organisms specialize (differentiate) permanently during development of the organism.
|Today all too many computers, especially PCs, retain a large
repertoire of unused general behavior susceptible to viral or worm
attack. Specialization is common, however, in embedded machines, cell
phones, PDAs, etc.
Biology suggests that specialization in computing will become increasingly common
|Communication by polymorphic messages||Metazoan, i.e., multicellular cells communicate with each other via messenger molecules, never DNA. The "meaning" of cell-to-cell messages is determined by the receiving cell, not the sender||Executable
code is the analog of DNA. Most PCs permit download of executable
code (Active-X, java, or even .exe)
Biology suggests this should be taboo. The meaning of messages must be determined by the receiver.
|An organisms identity, or "self" is defined by a stigmergy
||Metazoans and biofilms build extracellular stigmergy
structures (connective tissue, bone, shell, or just a jelly-like
matrix) which define the persistent self
"Selfness" resides as much in the extracellular stigmergy structure as in the cells.
and databases are stigmergy structures in the world of
multicellular computing, as are many Web
phenomena such as search engines, folksonomy sites, wikis and blogs.
Determination of "self" is largely ad hoc in today's systems. It needs to be more systematic.
|"Self" is protected and sculpted collectively by programmed
cell death (PCD) or
||Every healthy Metazoan cell is prepared to commit suicide --
a process called
apoptosis or Programmed Cell Death.
Apoptosis reflects a multicellular perspective, sacrificing the
individual cell for the good of the multicellular organism.
Apoptosis evolved to deal with DNA replication errors, viral infection, and rogue undifferentiated cells. Yet the organism also uses it to sculpt its shape as it develops.
|Examples of apoptosis
in computing include shutting off errant CPUs in fault-tolerant
systems, and the Blue Screen of Death in Windows -- a programmed response to an
A civilized computer in a multicellular computing world should sense its own rogue behavior, e.g., a viral or worm infection, and disconnect itself from the network.
Contact: sburbeck at mindspring.com
Last revised 6/10/2012