I’ve been using Pandora radio for some time now and I’m quite fond of it. It manages to play the music I want it to play, in the order I want it to play it, and in the variety that I most desire. But Pandora wasn’t always this good for me, when I first got it, it was quite bad. I said I wanted to listen to X and it started playing B-G.
Pandora begins much like a stem cell, it could be absolutely anything and what it needs from me is the input. It needs the information to help finalize into something meaningful. Will it be a heart cell, a lung cell, or a kidney cell? Pandora I think is a wonderful example of specialization in nature.
It is difficult at any one point to point at your radio station and say when it is something genuinely new and different. You’d be hard pressed to pick the exact thumbs up or thumbs down that you performed that gave you the Pandora that you now consider current and beautiful.
The same thing happens in biology when examining new species in nature. The idea of a “missing link” is moronic and misleading. Everything has missing links, your own history is full of them. Some people are born and die without any records and the only evidence they ever existed is that you are here right now.
Fossils are extremely rare and incredibly fortunate, there is absolutely no reason to expect them and we should feel extremely fortunate each time they are discovered. But back to Pandora, the creature that is my current Pandora is completely different from the Pandora that I once knew. When did that happen? Not to transition between too many thoughts at once but it reminds me of myself.
The person I am today could not relate to nearly anyone in my past. Every few years I shift emotionally and mentally so dramatically that I can barely believe my old me ever existed. They seem so genuinely unique and different that it is damn remarkable that either instance of me could be compatible or similar in any meaningful fashion.
The same is true with different species along the same evolutionary line. To us on the surface they seem entirely unique and cannot possible come from one another, but they do, their life of change is not a mere hundred years but a millennia or twenty of them. Do you know the exact moment that we start calling two different animals different? These days with DNA testing and advanced biological metrics there are likely many answers but the simplest is when two kinds of animals cannot breed.
It is that moment when their biology is so unique that they can no longer procreate together that they are considered unique species. Does that happen over the course of a single child, a hundred children, or a hundred thousand? That much I don’t know, it is as much a question for science as it is of philosophy. At what point do those single grains of sand become a hill and when does that hill become a beach and when, pray tell, does that beach become a desert? What is that hard rough number that so many people demand when they ramble on about gradual change?
We don’t know what it is but we’ll know it when we see it. This is not a statement of ignorance but of reality. We don’t know when many things become other things but we can feel when they are that knew thing. I don’t know when my Pandora became this new magical mix of Decemberists, T-Pain, Kanye West, Aerosmith, Frank Sinatra (and more), but I know that it is this thing now. It pulls up music that the younger generations of it would have never imagined.
It reminds me acoustically every day of the simple and beautiful mechanism behind change that alters me, alters nature around me, and has been the fundamental driving pattern of existence. I appreciate it, I adore it, and am very receptive of the kitten that it has inevitably plopped on the computer desk beside my monitor.
Her and the rest of everything delight me. What the individual autonomous things do might not, but the existence of such things at all, certainly.