Form Defining Function

February 16, 2017 • #

I’m currently reading Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene, a history of the building block of living things. A great read, the right mix of history and discussion of future possibilities like gene manipulation, splicing, and cloning (good or bad).

This bit struck me about the construction of anything, not just living organisms. It’s not the parts, but the relationship between parts that gives a structure its function:

A boat is not made of planks, it’s the relationship between planks. If you hammer a hundred strips on top of each other you get a wall, side to side you get a deck. Only a particular configuration, relationship, and order makes a boat.

Humans and worms have the about the same number of genes (about 20,000), and yet only one of these organisms is capable of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This suggests that the number of genes is largely unimportant to the physiological complexity of the organism.

Think about this with genes, bits, or atoms. It’s the same with all building blocks — the right pieces are nothing without the right relationships.