How are behaviors encoded in DNA?

January 21, 2002 by John McCarthy

The 5th Annual Edge Question reflects the spirit of the Edge motto: “To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.” John McCarthy asks: how are behaviors encoded in DNA?

Originally published January 2002 at Edge. Published on January 21, 2002. Read Ray Kurzweil’s Edge question here.

Many animals have quite substantial hereditary behavior. Moreover, these behaviors are subject to evolution on fairly short time scales, so they probably have straightforward DNA encodings on which mutations can act. Mostly the behaviors seem to be sequences of actions, but perhaps there are some of the form “do X until Y is true”.

Copyright © 2002 by Edge Foundation, Inc.