Sunday, January 16, 2011

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).

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