#10 N²

When we go to solve a problem, we utilize our resources. What resources those are depends on the game and the nature of our self, the player, within that context.

Some games are 1 versus 1. Some are 11 versus 11. Some are 50 million versus 75 million but with the option of others joining sooner or later. Some games are 1 versus 1 versus 1 versus 1 . . . Sometimes, just to illustrated the fluidity of the possibilities, we should note that the game is 10 million or more versus 1 and the 1 usually wins. It really depends on how we look at it. There are many ways to organize the same information.

Is virus versus human 1 versus 1, 10 million versus 1, or could we look at it as two strands of nucleic acids trying to out-replicate eachother?

In the view that evolution is a contest between chains of nucleic acids, it is apparent why our DNA is so good at beating viruses. It’s because we’re cheating. Our cellular DNA is complimented by all sorts of other genetic information and capabilities. For starters, there is the DNA information and capabilities of our cellular mitochondria. At some point, a very long time ago, our cellular ancestors literally joined forces with a totally different organism, by accident most likely. But, they stuck together and co-evolved into the organism that we are today. In another instance of evolutionary teamwork, completely foreign bacteria took up residence in our digestive system and began breaking down some of the food material that our own biological mechanisms could not, thus unlocking a greater potential calorie and nutrient content from the same amount of food. In still another instance of genetic cooperation, the genetic information of two distinct members of the same species were combined and were used to create a better organism (hint: sexual reproduction). There are more, and more subtle examples, but if we looked into the history of cooperation of a virus, we probably wouldn’t find nearly so much cooperation.

In a nutshell, humans are better because we work as part of a team. Against the wealth of genetic “wisdom” that the human team has available, against the various expressions of that wisdom, as tissue, antibodies, behaviors, biological responses, a poor little virus’ single strand of nucleic acid and rudimentary protein shell are not much of a match. Once in a while, they get lucky. The most successful viruses probably do a whole lot of nothing except replicate at a moderated pace inside us (or bats or dogs or oak trees or whatever). They may even have a beneficial (read: cooperative) function, such as keeping our immune systems primed or attacking bacterial pathogens.

No matter the case, the lesson should be clear.

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