Open Source Genetics

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From Humanitarian-FOSS Project Development Site

The intelligence community in the United States government is about due for a major renovation in regard to the way it's agents and administrators collect, share, and view information. However, it remains to be seen whether the monolithic enterprise of intelligence gathering is ready for the "cultural sea change" required for open source ideals to permeate organizations like the C.I.A. and F.B.I.. "[Persuading] analysts, who for years have survived by holding their cards tightly to their chests, to begin openly showing their hands online," is precisely the hurdle that must be overcome in order for initiatives like Intellipedia to be successful and safe. It is a matter of approach; the Department of Defense tried to get agents to blog, but because they only assigned a few people to the project at a time, the spirit of collaboration soon faded because there just wasn't enough people to collaborate with;

"the agency’s officials trained only small groups of perhaps five analysts a month. After they finished their training, those analysts would go online, excited, and start their blogs. But they’d quickly realize no one else was reading their posts aside from the four other people they’d gone through the training with. They’d get bored and quit blogging, just as the next trainees came online."

The scientific community on the other hand has essentially been "open-source" all along. Jim Kent, a research scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said "'You can't do science without having reproducible results,' explaining that scientists employ a system under which they conduct peer reviews on scientific discoveries before accepting them as sound. 'People can't do that unless they can see your source.'" [1]

With regard to the human genome, Kent suggests that while computers and communications technology are human creations they still rely on a common-denomiator that allows information to freely pass from one entity to another. Our genetics are open, in the sense that if a person of German decent and culture wanted to mate with a person of Egyptian decent and culture, they would be able to do so successfully. Such ideas are paralleled in the world of computers; "protocols such as TCP/IP have one similarity to the genome: they are essential for communication over the Internet in the same way the genome is necessary for human life, Lewin added. "Those need to be open," he said. By using common processing protocols, information is able to pass through many different computers in the network that is the internet to get from the host to the client, or end-user.

If you isolated in close proximity only 5 humans at a time who could successfully mate with each other one could imagine that the population may cease to exist. Perhaps because of the homogeneous nature of the gene pool, its later generations would evolve from a very limited amount of genes -- increasing the likelihood of harmful mutations or inability to adapt to certain environments, and thus die off. This can be translated directly into our government's objective of intelligence sharing. The 5-at-a-time approach lends itself to be self contained. If only 5 agents talked to each other with regard to intelligence, their view of the event would eventually become unified rather than individuals filling the gaps in their colleague's knowledge. However, when the number of contributors is larger, the community expands and the value of the individual becomes secondary to the network. The government needs to value the network and the protocols they create first which will broadly solve the problems of communication, collaboration, and sustainability. It also seems that they should let these projects modeled on open source evolve by themselves to solve the minor problems and bugs that may arise during its initial use.

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