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Systems, Experts, and ComputersThe Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After$
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Agatha C. Hughes and Thomas P. Hughes

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780262082853

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262082853.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 06 July 2022

How a Genetic Code Became an Information System

How a Genetic Code Became an Information System

(p.462) (p.463) 15 How a Genetic Code Became an Information System
Systems, Experts, and Computers

Lily E. Kay

The MIT Press

This chapter examines first and foremost the emergence of the information discourse in biology at the end of the 1940s, and then follows its instantiation in the later analyses of genetic codes, where it resulted in a deconstruction. While it now seemed technically legitimate to speak of molecules, genes, and organisms as information and linguistic systems, there was a fatal flaw in this discursive reconfiguration, for in information theory, language is purely syntactic and information has no semantic value. Ironically, these new scriptural representations of heredity endured as a metaphor for the eternal word, or book of life, but in their strict technical sense led to the erasure of its meaning. Eminent physicists, biophysicists, chemists, mathematicians, communication engineers, and computer analysts—whose own projects situated them at the hub of weapons design, operations research, and computerized cryptology—joined in the effort to “crack the code of life.”

Keywords:   information discourse, biology, genetic codes, deconstruction, information, linguistic systems, discursive reconfiguration, syntactic, semantic value, heredity

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