One of the things we have learned from our early exploration of the solar system is that there is an extreme harshness to space, the moon, Mars and beyond. Cosmic radiation and solar flares, extreme temperatures and pressures (or lack thereof), gravitational challenges and more scary things all lead to the obvious conclusion that we are not designed to be “out there.” Even living on the most friendly of places (Mars) will probably be impossible unless we live underground or in buildings on the surface thick enough to protect against radiation, a 1% atmosphere, and really really cold conditions. Terraforming Mars (with has no magnetosphere) … forget about it. So what is the answer to living on alien worlds? NAA thinks it is a new kind of life.
Scientific attempts to recreate biological life have shown how difficult it is to cross the life/no life barrier. However our success in creating machines has been steady and we are now on the verge of creating robotic life that will closely emulate humans. The wizard thinks it is here where we must look for denizens of the great beyond. Life is really about reversing entropy in a way such that order (at least in a localized manner) dominates over chaos. It is about passing along information generation after generation and it is about the ability to perpetuate the species. It is also about the ability to work successfully within its environment and about the ability to adapt to change.
THE ESSENSE OF LIFE
The Wizard submits that life, at its core, is about four things:
- A living creature must have the ability to reproduce.
- A living creature must be able to successfully interact with its environment by obtaining the building blocks for life from the environment.
- A living creature must be able to adapt and modify itself as the environment changes.
- And as a nice to have, a living creature should be able to modify its environment.
Biological life on earth clearly has these things. DNA passes along the instructions for making life and actually helps to get life started. The materials for growth come from the environment and all creatures to one degree or another have been forced to adapt to changing conditions. Plants and animals work together in a symbiotic way with the respiration from one being the necessary gas of life for the other. Humans more than any other creature have shown the ability to modify its environment by building houses and even transforming the materials of nature into cities of almost inconceivable scope and complexity.
BUT artificial life can do all these same things. Just with current technology, we are on the verge of machine life being able to carry out the same functions as biological life. Let us examine a few ways this could happen.
ARTIFICIAL LIFE ON MARS
The goal here is to introduce technology on a one time basis that will carry on and survive without further involvement from humans. If done right, the machine world would thrive and A-life would cover the planet and still be there in new and advanced forms even after millions of years. Thus, the question is this “Can A-life be immortal with just a onetime set-up?”
The Wizards says YES. Imagine that we are introducing a suite of artificial life to the red planet. You would of course need cellular building blocks and this could be carbon based nano-bots. Carbon could be extracted from the atmosphere (CO2) or it could be found in the soil or on the surface (as frozen CO2 is common.)
You would also need silicon for solar energy collection and for computer chips and that should be on the surface as well. Iron is everywhere as the “red” in Red Planet comes from iron oxide which covers the surface.
Energy would come from solar panels and wind capturing trees. Each of the creatures on the planet would be made of iron building blocks (with just a few shapes that “snap” together) and from nano-bots that would link up to create the flexible portions of each creature.
So imagine a day on the red planet as giant iron trees (built from standardized iron blocks) reach high into the skies to capture energy from the sun through its nanobot “leaves”. It sends the energy to block building foundries that keep churning out blocks for ever more trees and creatures. The nanobot factories (inside of the trees initially and later in factories) also keep churning out carbon based cellular components. Computer chips could also be created in sterile environments inside of other buildings (or even specialized trees.) Mobile resource gathering units would roam the planet looking for key raw materials. With chrome for example, the iron and carbon could be used to make stainless steel and one could imagine great forests of stainless steel trees glistening on a perfect Martian day(see below.)
The trees could also serve as relay stations for communication with centralized control units that would provide internet like information capacities to the thinking units that roam the planet.
A separate team of trial and error robotic engineers could be produced that would use genetic algorithm programming to constantly change and improve the creatures and material processing methods of the planet. In this way, it could duplicate Darwinian evolution. The only difference is that the genetic algorithm methods would be much faster at producing change.
Eventually robotic creatures would emerge who would build cities to make their “economies” more efficient. With no waste, no theft and no sleep, such places would grow at a phenomenal pace far outstripping anything humans could do. Research could be done in VR think tanks.
Collective consciousness would also be possible on the imagined Mars of tomorrow. Creatures far smarter than humans might even one day go to war with the biological creatures that to them would be “alien.”
ARTIFICIAL LIFE ON EARTH
Not only are we on the verge of creating machines that could replace humans in most jobs, we have created machines to make energy and even make other machines. The near future may be filled with robots as costs drop and intelligence soars. As humans lose jobs, they might become wards of the state (which could afford to be generous because the rate of productivity growth in a machine world would be quite spectacular.) Of course, if humans were to become wards of an electronic collective, restrictions would have to imposed … like limits on reproductive freedom. It is a scary but easy to imagine future. Artificial life will thrive because of Darwinism and human greed.
IS BIOLOGY JUST A STEP ALONG THE PATH OF DEVELOPMENT?
Whether it is a world we create for Mars or Venus or the Moon or even Europa or whether it is just “helper” creatures that begin to take root on earth, the pace of change of artificial intelligence has the potential to far outstrip the pace of change in the biological world. As we stand on the threshold of being surpassed by creatures that we have built, it is very easy to see that the very nature of what constitutes “life” could be about to change. It may be that in world after world, life starts out as biological, but then transmutes into the artificial just by the simple rules of Darwinism. For a while, the two competing technologies may blend and intertwine, but in the end, who is to say that the biological creatures won’t just go away (or be marginalized as museum curiosities.)
ARTIFICIAL LIFE AND THE COSMOS
Perhaps the reason why we haven’t yet found other intelligent creatures in space is that they are completely unlike us. If biological creatures become intelligent, then technological, then obsolete in the space of a few millenniums, then there wouldn’t be much to find. The window for discovering “creatures like us” would be extremely small. Just think about creatures becoming twice as smart as Humans every two years over and over again (Moore’s Law.) In the end, they would see us as little more than the functional equivalent of amoebas or viruses. They probably communicate in ways that are so far beyond radio waves and electromagnetic pulses that we could search forever and not find any signals that we could recognize. It could be that we will not be able to discover the intelligent life that is out there until we become like them (a state we can barely imagine.)
The Wizard thinks that life as we have known it is about to change and it won’t be because of a new philosophy or the conquest of nations or a UN framework of peace or any similar nonsense. Instead, it will be because our replacements have arrived. In the beginning they will be cute and fuzzy, offering friendship, labor and even a bit of sex. But ultimately (perhaps in just a few decades), they will become so much more intelligent than us, that people will be relegated to the margins. This may mean that we will be scanned and turned into VR creatures so that all the materials of earth can be gathered and utilized exclusively by the new Master race of machines. Wow, scary stuff … time for some alcohol and computer games … wait.