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Lost to extinction

AP Biology certainly makes a big deal out of ecological preservation and endangered species. What’s the deal? Things die off, and then there’s more to replace them. I read 4 chapters and I still can’t answer the “Why is it important to protect endangered species?” question. But I think I’m finally starting to get it.

Now, understand that I relate a lot of things to programming. It just works for me. Spanish is like a massive programming language. Certain functions only take certain kinds of parameters. You can mash a bunch of words up and sound smart, but the code won’t compile. Learning spanish is like reading an enormous book of documentation: ”The Spanish Programming Lanuage: 2nd edition”. Then it all fits in. Physics is a lot like programming too, but that doesn’t even need to be explained.

But biology. Oh biology. At first I thought it was weird that you could cut and paste pieces of DNA onto different places and even between different organisms and it would still work. Like, what the hell, I can’t just cut and paste a big chunk of WordPress into Boggert and expect it to work. Then I see that DNA is very modularized. If both programs share a standard way of attaching filters or handlers, then of course, oh it all makes sense now! Then what are endangered animals? They’re like giant masses of code that no human has ever analyzed. For all we know, there could be some genius sorting algorithm stored in the genome of some fish that just died out last week. That’s one reason for ecological preservation: loss of great code. Also, some people think that the loss of species to extinction is our fault, and our fault alone. Because humans cut down forests and eat all the fish and pollute stuff, it’s our responsibility to pick up the earth we abuse daily and give it some TLC. Well it’s not like humans go and destroy/pollute code, so this didn’t make sense to me at all. At least not until recently. Wikipedia editors are taking down the articles for some obscure, little-known languages simply because they aren’t “noteworthy”. It’s not nearly as disastrous as losing an entire repository (like that could ever happen). I mean, the source code and documentation are all located elsewhere. But it’s just the first time that information has been so indiscriminately destroyed. Freaking destroying information. How awful.

On the other hand, it’s like keeping your old junk. There’s just too much of it. If it weren’t for preservation efforts, a lot of things would have died out naturally. We’re all hesitant to throw out junk because we get this feeling that it could be useful one day. It’s the same thing with animals or programming languages or real languages, you know the talking kind. There have been extinctions before, and there will be extinctions in the future, whatever we try to do. Maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong. Keynes said ”The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.” Our family pictures, our side projects. How long do we keep them before they lose all their value? Or rather, before the cost of keeping them exceeds their potential benefits? (heheh) We stash pictures in the short run because it’s fun to show them to people. That’s benefit. What about animals? There’ll be more animals to analyze in the future, as long as all of them don’t die right?

I’ve got a whole harddrive devoted to backups. The files from all my side-projects aren’t worth an arm and a leg, but they did take a large time commitment. Some time in the future, these projects will pale in comparison to other things that happen. Do they lose their value? Will there be a day when these backups are completely worthless to me? In the past, value was in material items. If you broke a vase that some guy spent his whole afternoon sculpting, he’d be pretty bat-shit pissed at you. But now that data has value.. it’s absolutely mind-boggling.

So along this line of logic, I’m open-sourcing one of my failed projects. There was nothing wrong with the programming parts of it, but this project just never got off the ground. I know that the code will never ever, ever be used for anything by anyone, but if I just left it on my computer, it would get wiped after a few years and the thought of losing data is just so frightening. Besides, it’s a good opportunity to learn to use git. My first open-source commit: On github.

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Mon, 23 Oct 2017 15:27:56 GMT