Re: computer virus

John Wilkins (wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU)
Mon, 08 Nov 1999 10:13:46 +1000

Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 10:13:46 +1000
From: John Wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU>
Subject: Re: computer virus
In-Reply-To: <001201bf28a5$b9b31760$>

On Sat, 6 Nov 1999 14:24:43 -0800 (Stephen Danic) wrote:

>> If a molecules is deformed, it will still probably bind to
>> or act as a substrate to *something*. Hence, gene products are able
>> vary a lot and still function, while machine code tends to be much
>> restricted - the only code that can vary randomly and still work is
>> that doesn't get executed.
>Even so, biological genetic mutations are usually fatal. So it is with
>computer programs. Some GP researchers have suggested that mutations
>more likely to be succesful if the gene has been accidently duplicated
>first. The product of the duplication (in biological systems) can then
>mutate freely, because the correct gene is still being expressed.

Most mutations are neutral. They have little or no effect upon
phenotypic viability. Gene duplication, particularly of tandem repeats
and microsatellite sequences, does provide an enormous opportunity for
the evolution of novel function, and such genes are called "paralogous",
that being the form of molecular homology where the homologs are not in
the same locus.
>I'm not sure how work is progressing in Computer Genetic Programming,
>some analogy should apply. As long as the original function is retained
>some form, the copy will be free to mutate without killing the system.
>In a computer program, if a mutation occurs that causes a function to
>an incorrect value, the product may still be succesful. It shouldn't
>generate a system crash. I'm tempted to believe that computer programs
>More resilient to mutations than biological systems.

Obligatory quip: you do not use either Windows NT or MacOS 8, then...

Seriously, a single bit error in, say, the address register, can cause a
massive failure in a very short time. Almost *no* point mutations cause
that sort of catastrophic reaction or collapse in biological organisms,
unless they are very simple to begin with (ie, viruses, stretching the
point to include viruses as organisms).

<snip idea that should never be passed on to the programming/hacking
community :-)>


John Wilkins, Head, Graphic Production The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Melbourne, Australia <mailto:wilkins@WEHI.EDU.AU><> Homo homini aut deus aut lupus - Erasmus of Rotterdam

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