[Fsf-friends] Sharing code, thoughts ...

Ramanraj K ramanraj@iqara.net
Sun Jan 2 23:22:11 IST 2005

  Sharing code is a fundamental fact of life:

Bacteria  have developed  a second  avenue of  evolutionary creativity
that is vastly more effective  than random mutation.  They freely pass
hereditary traits from one to  another in a global exchange network of
incredible power and efficiency.  The discovery of this global trading
of genes, technically known as  DNA recombination, must rank as one of
the  most   astonishing  discoveries  of   modern  biology.   Margulis
describes it  vividly: `Horizontal genetic transfer  among bacteria is
as if you  jumped into a pool  with brown eyes and came  out with blue

This  gene  transfer  takes  place  continually,  with  many  bacteria
changing up to 15 per cent of their genetic material on a daily basis.
As Margulis  explains, `When you  threaten a bacterium, it  will spill
its DNA into the environment, and  everyone around picks it up; and in
a few  months it  will go all  the way  around the world.'   Since all
bacterial strains  can potentially  share hereditary traits  this way,
some  microbiologists argue that  bacteria, strictly  speaking, should
not be classified into species.  In other words, all bacteria are part
of a single microscopic web of life.

In  evolution, then, bacteria  are able  rapidly to  accumulate random
mutations,  as  well as  big  chunks  of  DNA, through  gene  trading.
Consequently,   they  have   an  astonishing   ability  to   adapt  to
environmental changes.   The speed with which  drug resistance spreads
among  bacterial communities is  dramatic proof  of the  efficiency of
their  communication networks.  Microbiology  teaches us  the sobering
lesson   that  technologies  like   genetic  engineering   and  global
communications  network, which  are  often considered  to be  advanced
achievements  of  our  modern  civilization,  have been  used  by  the
planetary web of bacteria for billions of years. ... ...

Bacteria, again,  have played a  major role in this  evolution through
symbiosis.   When  certain small  bacteria  merged symbiotically  with
larger  cells and  continued to  live inside  them as  organelles, the
result  was a  giant step  in evolution  - the  creating of  plant and
animal cells . ... ...

Evidence  has  been  accumulating  that the  microtubules,  which  are
essential  to   the  architecture   of  the  brain,   were  originally
contributed by the `corkscrew' bacteria known as spirochetes. ... ...
</quote from "the hidden connections" by fritjof capra>

Even bacteria seem to "understand" the value of free sharing of code.

Mud, dust, rocks and other lifeless  things alone don't seem to do any
useful code sharing.   Free code sharing seems to  be a very important
fact  of life,  at the  very core  of our  evolutionary  progress, and
modern  science may  reveal more  and more  of the  code  sharing that
occurs naturally all the time, as narrated by Fritjof Capra.

Sharing code is such a fundamental  element of our very being, and its
importance is most  visible again from the spectacular  success of the
free software movement.  Rapid progress in science and arts, is easier
by  adopting and  sharing innovations.   The very  definition  of life
revolves around  the ability to copy,  share and improve  the stock of

We ourselves are the ultimate  products of code sharing and symbiosis.
Any restrictions on free sharing  of code would only result in sterile
still born  products that soon degenerate into  lifeless mud.  Through
free code sharing alone, rapid progress, growth and better utilisation
of resources is possible.

Happy Hacking :)

More information about the Fsf-friends mailing list