When people hear the phrase computer code or programming their eyes glaze over.
Indeed, the entire new world of apps on tablets and smart phones has served to separate ordinary technology users from the magic that takes place in the brains or chips of their devices.
Because I believe that this is so significant, especially as it relates to our own nature and biology (DNA is code), let me give you a taste of what it may mean in one small example.
“Object-oriented” programming allows developers to create blocks of code that can be reused in various programs. For example, a Microsoft developer might use the block of code that represents a slider at the bottom of a window while a web page is loading, or the program is calculating…
This is a block of English language text that makes the slider appear as long as the computer is thinking.
As I’ve written in the past, one very simple example of such code is a Word macro like this:
‘ red Macro’
ActiveDocument.Shapes.AddShape(msoShapeRectangle, 93#, 43.5, 117.75, _
Selection.ShapeRange.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(192, 0, 0)
Selection.ShapeRange.Fill.Visible = msoTrue
To anyone not familiar with computer code, this is another language; namely a block of symbols that contain meaning—in this case they determine how energy (electricity) is processed in a computer running this code.
Like the example of the slider code (a block of text), this “subroutine” (program) creates a rectangle which it fills with the color value which represents red, the RGB value of which is (192, 0, 0)
(If you want to check this color value for yourself, open a program like Photoshop and enter the RGB value for a tool like the eyedropper, and you’ll see it for yourself).
This gives you the first inkling of how mathematics is representing a quality or property—here it’s a color value.
In programming terms, we have set the “property” of the object (rectangle) to be a Fill Color with this value (Red).
When the macro runs this all happens in the blink of an eye and a red rectangle appears on the page.
In Microsoft Word this “happens” as a result of user input (Mouse Click) and the macro “runs” (lives?) as the Code executes.
Remember again that DNA in our cells works the same way—As Juan Enriquez says in the TED video I always quote, the apple (a program or executable) is on a branch–when sunlight hits it, its code executes, and it falls from the tree.
In the case of DNA, as it is sequenced (decoded) by supercomputers, our own genetic code is what instructs the genes to combine as one of a set of amino acids (chemicals) to express—and these various combinations can be decoded as four letters, A, C, T and G. (And in fact within the supercomputers for sequencing, they are sometimes also associated with specific colors so that A=Blue, C=Green, T=Yellow, G=Red.)
Of course the actual letter, color or RGB value (number) only has meaning assigned by the human intelligence that uses it to figure out the instructions—it intrisically represents a meaning for the expression of Life.
This potential of the apple to execute (fall) is a “property” of the apple that is the result of its DNA (code).
If its DNA instructed Life to form a banana, it would not execute the same way (live) because of its different properties. Ironically, the apple’s color property is also often red – the banana has a different “RGB value” – yellow.
Of course when we consider our DNA we often think we also have certain “properties” – eye color, hair color or on a more complex level, perhaps a tendency (or potential “property”) for diabetes or depression. (Consider the RGB value of “blue” eyes)…
What determines whether we manifest those properties?
Simply put – Life.
But what are we? Are we the programmed object that is the block of code (the body of cells – or the nucleus with the DNA)?
At first look it might appear so – but the “object” you were at birth is hardly the same as the one you are now—although the code in your cells is similar (DNA can also change as you grow and develop, as can the brain—a property called neuroplasticity). We can “reprogram” ourselves.
But consider the plasticity of Life. Now you may have the property of being about 4-7 feet in height—when born your property (height=) was considerably less.
In some ways the Genes that “express” as a result of the code’s interaction with the environment (the new science of Epigenetics) is “who” you are, but that is also always changing.
And so you aren’t even really your properties (programmed code) or “methods” (abilities) – (one of Microsoft Word’s methods would be to create text on a page; another method would be to send data to a printer).
Rather, the truest aspect of what “you” are is the manifestation or execution of the code from moment to moment – which is Life.
Indeed the very notion that you are a separately programmed “object” apart from the rest of Life is the result of our own very “human” programming – it’s “wired” into your brain as a concept or thought. It does not exist in nature.
Presumably a banana does not have such wiring and doesn’t consider itself a separate object.
When you begin to consider that thought is just another programmed “property” of your evolved brain (and again, not a “thing” – but an aspect or property as with the computer programmed object – the macro) – you may realize that you are no “thing” but rather the consciousness (mental attribute or property) that is all of Life.
…which “makes” the apple execute and fall from the tree, and has prompted “me” to write this blog post.
As Buckminster Fuller once put it, “I think I am a verb” (being) – not a noun (object).
DNA code represents the incredible manifestation of a vast intelligence, with the infinite perfection of mathematics, which is reflected in all of Nature. And its discovery suggests that none of “us” are separate “things” but rather the properties that are manifested through the endless, infinite and magical evolutionary processes of Life itself.