C Elegans

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Eric has spoken publicly many times about Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) as a Portal into biology. This otherwise unremarkable nematode is an especially significant organism because of the extensive research scientists have undertaken to understand its biology as completely as possible. This is in large part due to the interest and contributions of biologist and Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner, beginning in the 1960s.

C. elegans was the first multicellular organism to have its entire genome sequenced, and is so far the only organism whose entire neurological network is known. Eric repeatedly mentions C. elegans to raise public awareness of the under-appreciated biological resources available to us through the study of this organism.

The worm and model organism, C. elegans, deserves your attention, no matter who you are, or what you do for a living.

-Eric Weinstein in his essay, The Importance of Taste

So it's this worm that was chosen by this guy, Sydney Brenner, who just died. And it's a shame because he would have been a great podcast guest, just, like, one of the most brilliant biologists that we didn't focus on. And he said, "You know what, we're missing a species that we can completely describe. Soup to Nuts. Here's the one that's about the simplest thing with a brain. It's only got 1000 cells. And 300 of those cells make up a very primitive neural system. And we're going to track where every goddamn cell—", like, bring up—Jamie, if I could ask you, sir, to bring up the cell lineage diagram for C. elegans. This will be the first of two images. Well, that is a complete map of how one fertilized egg becomes a tiny microscopic worm for every possible division.

Right now, here's the thing. Everyone in biology knows how cool this thing is. And very few people, not enough people outside of biology, know that we have completely mapped how one cell—like if you're 30 trillion cells around. It's too big to write a diagram. It's only possible because they're only 1000 cells. And this thing has locomotion. It has sexual reproduction. You know, it eats. So, you're looking at the architectural plans for an actual organism.

-Eric Weinstein on JRE #1320 @ 1 hr 29 min

Eric on Lex Fridman's Podcast mentioning C. elegans in the context of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

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