Sunday, January 16, 2011

Excerpt by Jacob Middleton

I am struck by the fact, that as I am attempting to recreate life, I am pushed closer and closer to the ways that biological life uses – acid in stomach, growth, controlling bone formation, evolution, ecosystem dependency, to name a few – all which are being pushed eerily closer to how biological life forms exist as – perhaps there is a very defined path to life, perhaps all converge on one point, all sharing the same driving forces and methods to accomplish the state of being called life….

The Symphony of Life

One is inclined to consider an entity that goes in and out of life-resembling processes as not fully alive, such that if a robot dies, and for scientific purposes we reanimate it and load a new eDNA into it, and so the robot appears to defy the confine of normal life, so we consider it as “it must not have been alive to begin with”.

We must consider a few points, first that humans have often been without life for many minutes, then (through science and technology) they have been reanimated and again possess life.

So we must condition ourselves to understand that
the property of life, is an occupier during the time that
all the processes of life are working harmoniously
– such as an orchestra, is it a symphony when only the trumpet is playing? Or only the drums beating? No, it is only a symphony when all instruments are working together, at the same instant in time.

So again we see the obvious truth that life is an attribute, not a physical quality. An attribute that is the sum of other functions all working at the same instant, and for that time all the instruments of the orchestra are playing harmoniously, it produces a symphony we call life.

In conclusion, it is not so hard to accept the fact that a person can be brought back from being dead, or a robot reanimated to once again be alive, for as long as all the instruments are playing at the same instant, so there will be a symphony.

The Power to Give - yet Not to Be?

An argument defending the claim of “robotic life”

Cannot the machines that give us “life” be themselves alive? Let’s look at a short story to demonstrate this underlying principle:

A man goes to a powerful wizard whom he finds on a rooftop, legs crossed, levitating a few feet up. The man pleas to the great wizard to grant him too the power to levitate, of which the great wizard accepts and grants the man the power to levitate.

Another man then comes up and asks for the same power to levitate, the great wizard turns and declares that he himself does not possess the power to levitate, though he is doing so as he speaks the words! How puzzled the man would be.

This is what we are doing when we say that a robot cannot be alive, when it is the very robot that keeps us ourselves alive. How can one entity give something that it itself does not possess? This is not saying that we should consider all machines that give life to be alive, but merely to entertain the fact that it is not so farfetched for us to one day accept the fact that machines can themselves be alive – as they have been keeping us for so many years.

Since life is an attribute, a mere idea given to an entity on Earth, we should not be so selfish with the idea, keeping it all to ourselves and our biological ancestors. We should be humble towards those robots that keep our human race in possession of the treasure called life, since it is they who give it to us. Should we not also allow them to partake in the treasure they help us maintain? – Namely, the attribute of life.

The Use of a Body

Though it is quite conceivable to have life without a body (suspended consciousness, for example) for practical and social means, a body is the medium between the living entities.

Consider this: There are two fish lying on dry land a few hundred feet apart from each other - each fish thinks to himself, “I am the only fish in the universe”. Then, someone adds water, a medium that allows the fish to swim around and meet each other, interacting, and socializing.

The fish lying on dry land are like life without a body, they lack a medium that allows them to interact with each other.

In conclusion, life may be able to exist without a body, it is conceivable to use some different medium to connect living entities together - but for our world, at least,
life has chosen its medium as that of “bodies” which allow
all living entities to connect, interact, and socialize together.

What’s with a Heart?

At first glance almost anyone you speak to will understand that a heart is a vital part of keeping life in a living entity, yet is this so? Obviously not, as some animals do not even have a heart, such as lava worms, coral, and jellyfish. Not to mention that quite a number of humans are walking around the world quite happily with robotic hearts, not their own biological heart.

So if a heat is not required to sustain life, then why do we put one into a robot? In short words: because they expect to see one -
people relate the property of life to a beating heart
(which drives Socially Alive acceptance).

For it is very difficult to push an idea onto someone, let alone an entire society - one must cause them to want to accept it as alive, to let their anthropomorphic feelings take a hold and convert the entity into a being that is Socially Alive because they now see something in it that they see in themselves, namely, a beating heart.

Alive: Social vs. Scientific Life

Being alive is not a one-word, one-meaning concept either. In reality there are two distinct, separate, definitions of the meaning of life. These are classified as Socially Alive, and Scientifically Alive. Let’s look into both to see the two different concepts we must overcome in order to create a robot that is, by all definitions, alive.

Scientifically Alive – There are 4 parts to the widely accepted scientific
definition of life, for an entity to be scientifically defined as alive, it
a) Have a metabolism
b) Grow
c) React to external stimuli
d) Reproduce

Socially Alive – This is the state of social acceptance where the vast majority of people (in a given contained network, area, geographical location, etc.) believe and fully accept an entity to be alive.

In modern culture, this is obviously apparent as trees, dogs, and humans are Socially Alive.
However obvious trees and dogs seem to be to us now,
other networks in the world fully accept some statues, cloths, and even water to be alive.
Thus, in these geographical areas or societies, the entities that we would call inanimate, are in fact Socially Alive to them.

The human mind wants to assert the property of life into objects, perhaps to find companionship with the different entities in the surrounding world. A child does this all the time, fully convinced that their doll, or action figure, needs to sleep, eat, and play just as they do, because it is (in their own network of their own minds) Socially Alive – though this is not a true example of Socially Alive, since the child is only one person, not a network of people.

Adults, when we grow older, are more influenced by other people around us, thus we tend to see things as being alive that the ones around us also see as being alive, so we let go of our childhood doll’s aliveness, but perhaps pick up other habits of calling a statue, or holy water, alive.
And so we must understand that being Socially Alive is only what we accept it to be. If everyone accepted the fact that this robot is, actually, a new life form, then the robot would now be alive, socially at least.

For one to be fully satisfied, our robot should meet both of these distinct definitions of being alive, though in reality, one must come first, which will lead the other. I have chosen to go after Scientifically Alive, as our modern culture tends to be one that is led by scientific discoveries/
(Interesting side Note: If we lived in the 14th century where superstition directed most of the beliefs of humans, I may have better success attempting to go after Socially Alive, thus leading Scientifically Alive).

And so, our outline has been systematically defined, our robot must meet or exceed all the criteria for being Scientifically Alive – once that happens, people regardless of what they believe, will have no choice but to accept that the robot is, scientifically speaking, alive. (Note that socially acceptance often follows a few years behind scientific discoveries - rarely is the social acceptance immediate after the discovery).

The Dilemma of Immortality

So why create a life form that is so vulnerable, that can die, and that requires a heartbeat – when with today’s technology we could just as easily create a robot that lives for 100 years and that can simply go into stasis rather than die, then just wake up again and be ready for the next 100 years?
humans, however we came to be, are NOT at the top of our
universe’s complexity scale.
We could be 10 times stronger, or 2 times smarter, we could be able to communicate with thoughts rather than words, we could be able to live 1000 years without aging. But we aren’t, and we don’t. Our species of has limitations, not because this was as far as humans could be made to go, but because there has to be some purpose to human existence, something we must do to earn the right to be alive. If we were already at the end of the universes scale for a life form, then what would be the purpose of having all these humans running around on this large rock? No, we are less than perfect so we something we must prove in order to be, and stay, alive.

And such it must be with isomorphic life forms, we cannot just create a robot that lives forever, it must have to earn its place in the world (and earn respect in the eyes of humans that it, too, has earned the right), it must have to DO something to be alive. I have created the Gallium Heart for this purpose, with each beat of its heart, the robot will be striving to stay alive, not a free pass into the world of animate life forms, but a road that requires constantly DOING something to earn the right to share with humans the attribute of life.

Life, Robotic

Mankind's first synthetic life form

This blog describes the creation of the first new synthetic life form ever created by the human race. My intention for this action is to one day build a living museum of robotic life forms, filled with many different types of “isobios” (isomorphic biological life forms). An entire synthetic ecosystem, powered solely by a single outside energy source much as the Sun is to Earth. I envision a place that exhibits the various different kinds of synthetic life, and where living “isobios” can be observed in their natural environment - where children and adults alike can come to see these fascinating creatures live.

Through this, I hope to bring about an awareness of our own fragile ecosystem and the effects that we humans have on it through My hope is that a parallel viewing of this similar robotic ecosystem will give people a different view of our own ecosystem, how complex, yet how much it needs our help to survive.

Also bringing awareness to the many endangered species in our own ecosystem, which my heart goes out to - how our actions as a human race are directly affecting these other life forms, and Earth’s ecosystem as a whole.

I would like to partner with the endangered species of the world organizations, and also climate change awareness organizations, even perhaps NASA to showcase the various kinds of life forms that are different from our own yet could populate the universe at this very moment.

I also intend to create an educational curriculum course showcasing and investigating the various scientific and biologically inspired concepts in isomorphic life creation. My hope is that this will be taught in schools or universities, to give students a real understanding of how ecosystems, and their life forms, really come to be and share a deep connection to each other – as we ourselves are part of Earth’s ecosystem.