Losing Control – Matt Pham

Everybody is probably talking about the GFP Bunny on their blogs. That’s exactly what it was meant to do; to stimulate debate. Yes, it’s art. It communicates an idea: that we are now living in an age where we can create animals according to our exact specifications. It also evokes an emotion: anger for some, curiosity for others. The GFP Bunny does not seem that beautiful, at least compared to other rabbits. It is also not a very creative pursuit. In fact, the GFP Bunny itself is a little dull as a piece of art. Yet, I have to concede that it is good art, because it has succeeded in communicating ideas, stirring up emotions, and generating debate. Personally, I feel that this whole project is a pretty irresponsible undertaking. Genetic modification should be left in the hands of educated, mature scientists. Careless modifications may have rippling effects that spread farther than anticipated.

The GFP Bunny reminds me of the story about the European rabbits in Australia. They were introduced to Australia so that the hunters could shoot something familiar. The rabbits quickly outgrew local populations and became a threat to Australia’s ecosystem. They are still a huge concern to Australia’s government today (http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/rabbit/pubs/rabbit.pdf ).

Sometimes, however, a loss of control can be a good thing. This week’s study of natural systems and AI shows that emergent properties can come out of simple interactions. This relates to fractals and to the processing programming language. Simple rules are used to create fascinating images. The designer of the rules has no control over specific pixels or vectors, instead letting the rules and the language do the work. Industry prices, for example, are regulated by the stock market, “which, like a biological system, involves constant adaptation to change by individual participants” ( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,977803-3,00.html). Art does not have to be micromanaged.

( http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/rabbit/pubs/rabbit.pdf )
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence )
( http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,977803-3,00.html )

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