Sun 4 Oct, 2009 05:41 pm
Life "Natures Ultimate Network
We find ourselves alive with no instruction manual to clarify the complexity of life or its existence. So we do the best we can to make sense of it all. Our ancestors clearly did the best they could to explain life but had limited and somewhat inaccurate information to work with. Clearly, they where nothing if not creative. The following is my small contribution to those who feel a desire to understand the truth of life.
Life is a property acquired by matter via nature’s assignment of (until we agree on a better term) a ‘lifeID’. This occurs at the formation of a viable vessel type (species). An apt and familiar analogy, if you will indulge me, is the cell phone. A cell phone requires a macaddress to perform its basic function of connecting a phone call regardless of the phones feature set. Normally the macaddress never needs to be considered by the user of the phone but is essential to the network that routes the calls. So you could teach a caveman the basics of cell phone operation and never mention that electromagnetic signals are transmitted and received by cell towers and encoded and decoded and the macaddress is identified and so on.
Similarly all life-capable vessels were assigned a lifeID at some stage in its formation which remains tied to the individual as long as it remains alive. The definition of alive is the ongoing capacity of a formation of matter or vessel to host a lifeID. Most living things, like you and I, or the caveman in my metaphor, remain largely unaware of the underlying function of the network of life. Nature uses the LifeID which is not actually a number but is something the nature of which we are yet to understand.
Is the lifeID a measurable EM frequency for example? I doubt it. Some vessels evolve to the point where they may interact with the network. When they do, a living individual is born. Throughout this article I use the word born loosely. That individual may be a tree ,an ameba, or a person. It’s as if a FM radio evolved to the point where it had all the necessary components to pick up Frequency Modulated EM signals. At the moment when it gained the capacity to do so it became functional from a radio point of view. Life does something similar to this in that when a vessel achieves the ability to interact with the life network, a lifeID is locked in.
An individuals lifeID is reassigned some amount of time after the host loses the capacity to host its lifeID and dies. If no viable hosts are available, the dispossessed lifeID remains unassigned. How much time this reassignment requires in the presence of available vessels is the next interesting area of inquiry. If, hypothetically speaking, there are no other new vessels anywhere after the last life carrying individual dies then life ceases to exist until new species emerge somewhere, anywhere in existence. Wherever that place is, that’s where you will be. In fact, a place like that is where you are right now.
Don’t confuse life, or being alive with consciousness or personality. Consciousness is a talent possessed by a species, an emergent skill not unlike flying or speech or dancing. Like those talents, consciousness may be naturally acquired and thereafter enhanced. In humans and mammals in general consciousness is mostly naturally acquired and in humans in particular we have quite a robust capacity for expanding on the natural conscious foundation we are born with. This extra capacity is called learning. Learning enhances or expands the skill of consciousness. Not all living things have the skill of consciousness so life should not be defined by its mastery or lack of consciousness.
There are obviously species that are not conscious but are alive. Vegetation is one example. Microbes are another. Vegetated humans may yet be another. In each of these the lifeID remains assigned to the individual because of the body’s continued capacity to host the lifeID, but the skill of consciousness has been lost ,or was never achieved. Not unlike a dancer who loses their dancing skill due to a sever leg injury, or a bird that becomes grounded because of a damaged wing. Or an entire species of birds becoming flightless due to natural selection (i.e. penguins).
The feature set of a species (its skills) should not be considered separate and distinct from its ability to host a lifeID. The ability to live, ironically can also be classified as a natural talent. Perhaps we should include classes of inanimate objects as pre-species that have not yet acquired the capacity to host a lifeID. Extinction occurs when a species (vessel type) looses the skill to host a lifeID. It has lost the talent to live.
Evolution describes the process that matter undergoes that culminates in the ability of a vessel to host a LifeID. If such a process doesn’t end with life, then it may not be considered evolution. Although distinguishing which processes will end in life can be a tricky endeavor. But clearly matter must evolve even before it achieves the talent to live. After life is achieved evolution just continues. Only at that point we look at it much differently.
One interesting idea that emerges from this line of thinking concerns near death experiences. When any life dies, (truly dies) for an undetermined period of time. That individual’s lifeID will be reassigned to another newly available host somewhere in existence. However, if the deceased is then revived, as we are increasingly able to do, then the deceased will also be assigned a new lifeID. This is because the revived individual was actually re-born. You see nature doesn’t care about the technical details of how an individual becomes capable of hosting a lifeID, be it through natural birth (via evolution), artificial birth, cloning, or the Dr. Frankenstein’s approach etc..
This reassignment can occur and no one will notice the difference. This conclusion can lead to some confusion for those that associate mental function (personality) with life. No noticeable change will be observed provided the formerly deceased suffered no brain damage while they were dead (i.e. oxygen deprivation etc.). This is because an individual’s living skills, natural or learned, are in no obvious way impacted by their lifeID. At least not in any way our science is currently able to detect. This suggests that a vessel can seem completely dead to us yet possess a lifeID nonetheless. Likewise a vessel may seem very much alive to us, but have no lifeID assigned at all. Like a non-living robot. Until we truly understand the nature of the lifeID and what it requires of a host, our definition of life will continue to be inadequate.
So, if my body is assigned a new lifeId, is it still me? No it isn’t. You are your lifeID. You are not your body. Interestingly, nor are you your memories and talents. When your lifeID is reassigned in a revived death experience, you are reborn to another vessel. The individual walking around in your former body, that everyone thinks is you, is a new individual. Since no memories or skills are transferred with the LifeID, if your new vessel happens to be an evolved embryo for example, you will be free to make a lifetime of new memories and talents to be determined by the specifications of your new vessel. As for your former (revived) body, that everyone thinks is you, that other lifeID was placed in our former body with fully, or at least partially developed memories and talents. That lifeID didn’t get a clean slate like you did. But that doesn’t matter; The network of life simply isn’t concerned with these kinds of details. And we simply cannot tell one life from another, we can only interpret behavior and appearance.
It’s a bit like the episode of the Outer Limits where, with the assistance of an alien species, we developed a teleportation device based on the principle of duplication of the individual. This questionable approach in the episode was to copy a person at point A, reconstruct him at point B, then destroy the original person at point A, then declare: teleportation complete. Well you may have guessed that at some point in the show the destruction of the original person at point A failed and they were left with two people both fighting for life. Person A and person B was by no means the same individual. This is despite the fact that they both had all the same memories and skills. This is because the instant a new vessel was constructed at point B a lifeID was assigned and a new individual was born. Although this was a fictional situation this is how it would unfold in reality.
So the really big question is, what is a LifeID? How is it assigned? What are the rules that nature follows in assigning it. Could we ever detect it as it passes from individual to individual? Is George Washington’s lifeID somewhere around, if only we could isolate and detect it? The implications are staggering. We would have to redefine our existence.
If we refer back to the cell phone metaphor the macaddress is scientifically pretty deep stuff relative to the simple user interaction with the basic cell phone itself. The internals of the cell itself is also quite complex. When we get to the network that binds all cell phones together, complexity takes on a whole new meaning. I don’t want to go overboard with the analogy between the life-network and the cell-network but I suspect that there is so much more to understand about life, not just on earth but the network of life that connects all of existence. For a little more insight on this see the article “Nature's Warp-Ship Life” and ” Entropy vs. Anti-Entropy (How DNA Defeats the Blackhole)”on this board.
nothing personal, I just don't care for tofu and I leave my cell phone on the kitchen counter next to the microwave.
wew have a member ,one named spendius, who is a rabid follower of consilience discussions. Im sure that hed enjoy your ponderings as hes been attempting to go " Daniel Dennett" on us from day 1.
Your "hosting" metaphor is the equivalent of "vitalism" i.e. a seperate "stuff" from its" vessel". You might
read up on "autpoiesis" for a non-vitalist account but you may be too entrenched in your own concept to consider alternatives.
Thanks for the reference, I'll definitely look it up.
While life, as percieved by us humans, may be said to be a complex thing, I would like to point out that living isn't so at all. Not until you make it so.
Seems to me people want more terms and concepts to make better sense of what they experience. I want fewer...