Pasteur’s Great Experiment

Before we begin, this is about a great historical experiment. It says nothing about the efficacy and utility of vaccines. Don’t confuse science with technology: vaccination is a technology. We can accept Pasteur’s experiment on anthrax in sheep while understanding that it doesn’t apply elsewhere. Specifically, it doesn’t validate or invalidate any other vaccine, in … Read more


The Purpose Of a System Is What It Does. Let’s take a trivial example. What is this for: A radiator has one dominating characteristic; it gets hot. Its purpose is to heat the room. Now, something a little more demanding. What’s the purpose of this cheetah’s behaviour: It’s hunting. The purpose of its current behaviour … Read more

Good Regulators

Every good regulator of a system must be a model of that system. The good regulator idea applies to all real-world systems, that is, all systems that manage others or are self-regulating. An organism needs a model of its environment to survive. Animals, or other organisms, with the best models, have an advantage. For example, … Read more

What is Smart Biology?

Imagine a world where organisms are intelligent. Clever like a smartphone rather than human genius, which is in short supply. We are all becoming familiar with artificial intelligence, its power and its limitations. When organisms have these properties, the fashionable and much-idolised genes become a low-level memory needed to generate proteins. By contrast, cells are … Read more

The First Law

When the complexity of the environment exceeds the capacity of a system, the environment will dominate and ultimately destroy it Norbert Wiener coined the term cybernetics, concerned with control and communication in living things and machines. Cybernetics involves several disciplines, including control theory, information theory, systems theory, and robotics. However, Ashby’s simple law of requisite … Read more