Cancer, Senescence, Computation and Complexity

I had an intuition that rather than genetic or cellular breakage and strict malfunction that cancer represents something of an uncanny alignment with the Halting Problem of computational theory. What is on one level a function of an atavistic throwback to deep biological history where replication and continuity at all costs provides a cellular (genetic) program without termination is, at another level of analysis an example of unprovable program termination where the system (genetic) code becomes an object of it’s own (recursive) introspection, as it must do under replication.

Biological senescence is a natural consequence of the logic and mathematics of physics, at least as currently understood. We (all) might benefit from research into the ways in which biological and ecological systems optimise their relationships with material entropy and logical (i.e mathematical) discontinuity to provide gestalt systemic (e.g. “mesh network”) resilience, self-propagating continuity and the utility of probabilistic, recombinatory genetic metamorphosis manifest as procedural evolutionary development.

Biological computation is of course – and at the very least – a metaphor and attempt to render complexity as intelligible. Information and energy-processing in (and as) complex dynamical systems is still quite a young field, in many ways. The nature of autonomously self-propagating information and energy-processing patterns or dynamical symmetries in physics is differentiated from those in non-trivially sophisticated biological systems in that homeostatic feedback loops (inter and intra-system) in biology can effect change on their trajectory through the state space by modifying their host context or environment. Like a soliton wave that can modify the properties of it’s context to optimise self-propagation.

The apparent logical or material discontinuities by and through which biological systems evolve are also those that eventually kill those systems. Evolution, of course, doesn’t really exist in a world without death, and – at a very deep level – mortality is both (existential) incentive for systemic/self-organisational change and inevitable endpoint of all biomechanical systems

3 replies on “Cancer, Senescence, Computation and Complexity”

Brilliant analysis, as usual; however, only in the smaller biological context does the cancer “algorithm” fail to terminate. In the larger biological system context, the cancer cells die when the host (human/animal) dies. Cancer cells can’t live without a host. Your article gave rise to another thought: that the Malthusian Progression is homeostasis at a social/ecological level.

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Thanks for the kind words. I hope one day to find a useful application for my thoughts beyond the limited windows of self-expression and peer validation afforded by this context.

The death of a host organism (or environment and ecosystem) is not a variable or consideration of the exponential growth of either tumours undergoing metastasis or a global financial and economic system undergoing collapse. In regards to the economic system – these are peculiar in that the collapsing system provides products, value and methods of exploitation for furthering the growth of the system. Perhaps only analogous in biology to the way that pancreatic cancer leads the organ to consume (i.e. eat) itself. Regardless – the singular self-interest of (a) cancer is indication enough of the futility of this approach when applied to economic or ideological systems – collapse and termination is only ever accelerated in this way.


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