Biological comparison nonsense

To me, this business with comparing malware and anti-measures in the IT security world with biological systems and in particular immune systems is nonsense on so many levels. People draw parallels with monoculture versus diversified cultures, and immunizing systems and so on. I say: Bah!

First, biological systems have no designer or design targets, no requirements specs, no whitepapers, no nothing. The only thing it has is a testing department. It also has gobs of time and material at its disposal. The entire evolutionary thing is based on “code monkeys” hacking out random code by the ton, then throwing it out on the “market” only expecting a random small fraction to succeed.

I realize that the above paragraph may offend some creationists, but you can’t discuss scientifically with those anyway, so I don’t care.

I also realize the description, according to many, is actually not that far from how many programming shops work today, but satire aside, there is a huge difference in scale. Something like six orders of magnitude. At least.

Another problem with these discussions is that people want to imitate the highly successful immune system. But we don’t know what makes the immune system so successful. We know parts of how it works, but the great general “idea” still eludes us and in particular how it learns to tolerate “own” tissues and how it avoids auto-immune reactions (not always successfully; think about the consequences). So, how are you going to imitate that? By creating IT systems whose idea also eludes us? (Insert favourite satirical comment here.)

There are two ways to create systems in this world/universe. One is by design, the other is by chance and selection. You do it by design if you’ve got some tools, like a brain. You do it by chance if you don’t exist and have no particular goal in life, since you’re not a living thing, and you’ve got a few million years time and a few billion tries to get it right. Which is a really inefficient method, but the only alternative available to a non-existent producer.

In other words: are you a thought producing entity with a will and a goal or are you a statistical and natural phenomenon? That’s what it comes down to.

The rest is just marketing.