next up previous
Next: Forget the Turing Up: Managing the Evolution Previous: Managing the Evolution

Limits of Imagination

We sometimes think of our imaginations as limitless, but in fact, they are burdened by our preconceptions, and limited by our knowledge which they build from. As a thought exercise, imagine that you are standing in a pool of micro-organisms, at the threshold of the Cambrian explosion. Your only knowledge of life is single celled bacteria, algae, protozoa, and viruses. With no prior experience of complex multi-cellular life, you probably could not imagine the forms of life that are about to emerge. Thus you could not have imagined in advance, the applications that humans would derive from organic evolution: rice, corn, wheat, chickens, pigs, cows, silk, mahogany, mink, cats, dogs, cotton, etc.

I suggest that we are in a similar relationship to digital information processes and evolution. Even the most complex of our software (such as operating systems) may be comparable in complexity to single celled algae or protozoa. We have no experience with, and can not imagine the kinds of complex, multi-threaded, parallel and distributed software that can exist in the future.

Thomas S.Ray
Mon Jul 15 15:51:28 JST 1996