[Humanist] 31.104 marvels

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Jun 15 07:18:10 CEST 2017

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 104.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2017 06:04:49 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: marvels

As a youth I remember my science teacher's attempt to communicate 
something of the marvels he had witnessed. He was born, he said, before 
the first airplane flew (in 1903) and had lived to see jet planes. We in 
public mode marvel when witnessing very young children playing 
with iPads and, in consequence, attempting to activate pictures in printed 
books by poking at them with their fingers. Yes, the presence of 
computational devices from the cradle is a sign of the times and of the 
likely future. Just this morning, however, I saw a video of an 
ultrasound session that showed the mother's first child, almost 3 years 
old, watching the live video of his sister or brother (too early to 
tell) moving about in utero: a profoundly biological vision afforded by 
a computational device.

We have read now for decades of computer scientists turning, reverting 
to biological systems for new ideas and challenges, and of the blurring 
of computational biology and biological computing. The question asked of 
new (strictly speaking) creatures, 'is it alive?', Keller writes, is 
perhaps less of a philosophical than an historical question. But what 
strikes me, especially after watching that video of a grandson watching 
a sibling in formation, is that it's life we're looking at -- that the 
great physicist Schrödinger, who gave those famous lectures on the 
question "What is Life?" in 1943, would be immensely pleased.

Let's put biology on our agenda!


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)

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