ThinkProgress reports that a pump bid for New Orleans may have been rigged:
When the Army Corps of Engineers solicited bids for drainage pumps for New Orleans, “it copied the specifications — typos and all — from the catalog of the manufacturer that ultimately won the $32 million contract.”
The coexistence of these typos is strong evidence that the Corps of Engineers specifications were copied verbatim. In other words, like novel forms of genes spreading through a family tree, those specifications were identical by descent. Identifying such novelties is how we identify common descent not just in biology, but in copyright law.
In a high school production of Anything Goes by Cole Porter, the scripts regularly misspelled “fiancé” as “finance.” At first, we assumed this was simply a result of poor proofreading, but after a while we wondered if it and other less Freudian typos might not have been introduced intentionally to catch people illegally reproducing the scripts. A perfect text would be much harder to prove that other people copied, while those typos would be strong evidence of a common ancestor.
It’s worth noting that a more error-prone text is less complex and less specified than a perfect one. How did we infer design?