Why Our Genome and Technology Are Both Riddled With “Crawling Horrors” – Facts So Romantic

“Add little to little and there will be a big pile.” —Ovid

When we build complex technologies, despite our best efforts and our desire for clean logic, they often end up being far messier than we intend. They often end up kluges: inelegant solutions that work just well enough. And a reason they end up being messy—despite being designed and engineered—is because fundamentally the way they grow and evolve is often more similar to biological systems than we realize.

When we discuss biology and technology, we have a tendency to talk about them as metaphorically similar: the brain as a computer, the evolutionary history of the airplane, even viruses on our machines. This imagery often elides the basic ways in which they are very different, and can lead us along incorrect ways of thinking. The brain is quite different from a laptop in how it works, and when we confuse natural selection with engineering design, we end up imposing teleology where it has no business. Despite this, it turns out that when it comes to viewing these both as complex systems and how they have ended up as kluges, there are some deep similarities.

Fundamentally, when we…

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