After the IoT comes Gaia

They say that sneakernet does not scale. If you think about the last product of Amazon, the AWS Import/Export Snowball, this clumsy suitcase contains less than a grain of pollen.

Reason from these arguments:

  • the Internet of Things is an extension of the internet, where lots of objects in the real world will start to talk and to produce heaps of data
  • so there is a need for a sneakernet solution in order to move these data around,  because the data are only passive evidence and they need to be processed,
  • compared though with biology, this quantity of data is tiny
  • and moreover biology does not function via signal transmission, it functions via signal transduction, a form of sneakernet,

you’ll get to the unavoidable conclusion that the IoT is only a small step towards a global network which works with chemical like interactions, transports data (which are active themselves) via signal transduction and it extends the real world biology.

After the IoT comes Gaia. A technological version, to be clear.

Some time in the future, but not yet when we could say that the Gaia extension appeared, there will still be a mixture of old ways IoT and new ways biological like. Maybe there will be updates, say of the informational/immunity  OS, delivered via anycasts issued from  tree like antennas, which produce pollen particle. The “user” (what an ugly reductionistic name) breaths them and the update start to work.

The next scene may be one which describes what happens if somebody find out that some antennas produce faulty grains. Maybe some users have been alerted by their (future versions of) smartwatches that they inhaled a possible terminal vector.

The faulty updates have to be identified, tracked (chemically, in real world) and anihilated.

The users send a notification via the old internet that something is wrong and somewhere, perhaps on the other side of the planet, a mechanical turk identifies the problem, runs some simulations of the real chemistry with his artificial chemistry based system.

His screen may show something like this:


Once a solution is identified, the artificial chemistry solution is sent to a Venter printer close to the location of the faulty antenna and turned real. In a matter of hours the problem is solved, before the affected users metabolisms go crazy.

Local machines

Suppose there is a deep conjecture which haunts the imagination of a part of the mathematical community. By the common work of many, maybe even spread over several centuries and continents, slowly a solution emerges and the conjecture becomes a theorem. Beautiful, or at least horrendously complex theoretical machinery is invented and put to the task. Populations of family members experienced extreme boredom when faced to the answers of the question “what are you thinking about?”. Many others expressed a moderate curiosity in the weird preoccupations of those mathematicians, some, say, obsessed with knots or zippers or other childish activities. Finally, a constructive solution is found. This is very very rare and much sought for, mind you, because once we have a constructive solution then we may run it on a computer. So we do it, perhaps for the immense benefit of the finance industry.

Now here is the weird part. No matter what programming discipline is used, no matter which are programmers preferences and beliefs, the computer which runs the program is a local machine, which functions without any appeal to meaning.

I stop a bit to explain what is a local machine. Things are well known, but maybe is better to have them clear in front of the eyes. Whatever happens in a computer, it is only physically local modifications of it’s state. If we look at the Turing machine (I’ll not argue about the fact that computers are not exactly TMs, let’s take this as a simplification which does not affect the main point), then we can describe it as well as a stateless Turing machine, simply by putting the states of the machine on the tape, and reformulating the behaviour of the machine as a family of rewrite rules on local portions of the tape. It is fully possible, well known, and it has the advantage to work even if we don’t add one or many moving heads into the story, or indirection, or other ingredient than the one that these rewrites are done randomly. Believe it or not (if not then read

Turing machines, chemlambda style

for an example) but that is a computer, indifferently of what technological complexities are involved into really making one.


(this is an animation showing a harmonious interaction between a chemical molecule derived from a lambda term, in the upper side of the image, and a Turing machine whose tape is visible in the lower side of the image)

Let’s get back to the algorithmic form of the solution of the mathematical problem. On the theoretical side there are lots of high meanings and they were discovered by a vast social collaboration.

But the algorithm run by the computer, in the concrete form it is run, edits out any such meaning. It is a well prepared initial tape (say “intelligently designed”, hope you have taken your daily dose of humour), which is then stupidly, randomly, locally rewritten until there’s no more reaction possible. Gives the answer.

If it is possible to advance a bit, even with this severe constraint to ignore global semantics, then maybe we find really new stuff, which is not visible under all these decorations called “intelligent”, or high level.


Life at molecular scale

Recently there are more and more amazing results in techniques allowing the visualization of life at molecular scale. Instead of the old story about soups of species of molecules, now we can see individual molecules in living cells [1], or that the coiled DNA has a complex chemical configuration, or that axons and dendrites interact in a far more complex way than imagined before. Life is based on a complex tangle of evolving individuals, from the molecular scale onwards.

To me, this gives hope that at some point chemists will start to  consider seriously the possibility to build such structures, such molecular computers [4] from first principles.

The image is a screencast of a chemlambda computation, done with quiner mist.


[1] Li et. al., “Extended Resolution Structured Illumination Imaging of Endocytic and Cytoskeletal Dynamics,” Science.

[2] Structural diversity of supercoiled DNA, Nature Communications 6,Article number:8440doi:10.1038/ncomms9440,

[3] Saturated Reconstruction of a Volume of Neocortex, Cell, Volume 162, Issue 3, p648–661, 30 July 2015
and video:

[4] Molecular computers