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Philosophy on the definition of life. (And Robots?)

Aug 9, 2005
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I'm not afraid to offend people with this post.

In short, I don't think there is "life"
Basically, we are made of the same elements and chemicals of everything else around us. That puts us relatively in the same space as rocks.

Okay, I think that basically all forms of recognized life, and some unrecognized "life" (like virus, which do not have all the characteristics required for the religously inspired text-book definition of life) are all basically computers, varying only in complexity and material.

The way all lifeforms make decisions is really the same way as computers do. We take input, and preform calculations to decide the response to stimuli. And we're more similar yet. We function and send signals via electrical impulses, and essentially function using the same energy sources.

Take a rock. It sits there and doesn't do anything. It doesn't respond to stimuli, and is formed of compacted unconnected and unrelated molecules.

Take a virus. Not much for it to do, but it does recieve small amounts of sensory input, and will make a dumb reaction based upon this information and attack a cell to reproduce. That's practically all the more complex it is. It's formed of a cell, which is no more than molecules (like the rock has) but are formed in ways which cause the whole system to be united.

Then take Bacteria and simple single celled eukaryotic organism. These are generally considered to be alive, yet our computers and robots can do everything these can do an much more. And the computers make much more complicated decisions than these simple organisms.

Take plants. They respond to stimuli, namely light and density of the earth. They move, and very slowly, they combust energy similary to all other life, and are made of extremely advanced networks of chemicals and cells(which are still made of chemical elements)

Move up to insects, and they still have extremely computer-like action. They have basic functions, move around, and attack food sources based on stimuli created by chemical and electrical impulses that have deemed the insect succesful enough to survive. Probably, the earliest forms of life that didn't have this response to the stimuli, or even recieve the stimuli to begin with died very fast. Thus, survival of the fittest, and like simpler organisms, devises much more complex methods of "thinking" and root themselves off of other previous methods. In addition, it boasts physical shape and limbs that make it much more succesful.

Take a large step up to mamals. These have an EXTREMELY complex system consisting of organs created from the same chemicals as our surroundings yet again. Now basically, they still function on the same level of a computer. They respond to stimuli in a way that benefits them best. These are much more complex than the man-made computers we have, but still preform responses to stimuli in an incredibly predictable way. Mamals especially, run off of a system of hormones, which are no more than a way of the cpu's instinctual(non-controlled) part releasing your own stimuli in a way that generally benefits the conscious part of the mind. In otherwords the stimuli which was released by your machine now is making way for another response by you.

For example, take a step into a theoretical environment: Say there was identical humans who physically and mentally the same. (basically, exact molecular copies) Because they are molecularly the same, they all have the same memories, and the same information about everything. Put them all in COMPLETELY identical situations where they need to make a decision...

I guarantee that they will all make the same exact decision. More, they will all go throught the same series of thoughts, in the same order, and will make their decisions at the same time. They will all have the same mental arguments with themselves, and go through the same processes. They will also have exactly the same physical movements, hormones released, minor muscle movements and cell movements and cellular decisions.

Sure, we do indeed make decisions, but so do computers. Computers based upon the information coded for them (ones and zeroes, offs and ons) will respond to the stimuli input by the persons, and react in a predictable fashion based off of what they are programmed to do. There finite series of possibilities, it seems also exists among animals. (Just, they seem infinite because of the immense complexity of the systems) The animals however, generally go though a series of millions or billions of different stimuli for one any specific thing that requires response, and complex chains of cellular and chemical comminication and static responses to pre-defined functions (and even functions which continue to be programmed throughout your existence), which when combined forms a very complicated system of thinking.

Now, right now we aren't capable of making machines with artificial intelligence great enough to trick someone else in thinking they were human... Nor can we design a machine made out of the same biological substances or an artificial non-silicon-based organic computer. (well, actually, we are already doing things with computers made out of organic material, which may someday replace our silicon based computers)

We have created a lot of robots with finite series of responses to generic stimuli, that can respond to things without the assistance of humans.... To take it a step further, we've created computers that program themselves. There are computers(robots more like) that basically "learn" like animals do, and based off of what they learn, they train themselves to respond to certain stimuli automatically. If you look into this particular field of study, it's incredibly amazing the things that have been accomplished like this.

Now say, that we created some of these robots which can move themselves and think for themselves, as well as make decisions in a similar fashion to humans. With this immensley complex system where the decisions are near infinite (actually, our human thought processes only seem infinite compared to the simple organisms such as ants, and the computers we have created) would these robots be considered alive or are they not?

Say we created biological/cyborg/mechanical, or combination "robots" and people couldn't even tell the difference between them and other humans. Since WE created them, is it possible that they can still be called "living"? From those in the religious crowd, they'd probably be the first to say they didn't have souls.

As I said before, since all humans are are just a bunch of atoms, nothing really prevents our technology from getting to the point where we could create a human or other animal from scratch by creating atoms in the same way they are round on humans or other animals.

So, if you made a human from scratch, and it lived and existed just like any other human, I ask, is it still considered a human? I wonder, would the religious crowd say that they are not for they did not have souls, or would they say that we had created "souls"

If these robots were capable of committing crimes, being rude, and other negative things (like in Blade Runner kind of) could they still be acceptable to society?

Best off, would they have rights?

What are your thoughts? Do you think we might be computers? Do you think that we can create things that are alive? Is there such a thing as a soul?

It is my personal opinion that there is no such thing as a "soul"
Is there really anything that seperates us from a machine, or even a rock?

If you are of the crowd that is unreligous, do you think this idea that I say is flawed/totally wrong? (Am I missing something?)

Based off of scientifc knowledge, this seems like a logical explanation of life, at least to me, at least now.
It seems like the main thing that seperates human-programmed computers from natural computers as of this day and age is the linear processing of the man-made ones. The linear processing is still found in the most simple organisms, and we are making less and less linearly coded software and devices as technology advances.
I think God is the building blocks for everything and we are his way of experiencing his creations. Let me explain, all things are made of the same stuff just as you have suggested, if you break it down to the level of atoms you can see that the atoms are made up of even smaller materials (protons, electrons, neutrons, quirks) I pose that those materials break down even further and those materials further still, yet something glues all of this together and places them in sequences that create everything from rocks to humans. God is that glue, that is how he is the alpha and the omega, this is how Jesus was the son of God, we are all peaces of God. Humans are given the ability to think for themselves and go through Gods creations so God can enjoy his creations. I know, I confuse myself sometimes, but what I'm trying to get at is if we do someday invent the technology to create living computers that are built the same as us then we will have found God, we will not be gods.
Ok maybe none of that made any since but I believe that philosophy is what really separates us from the animals.

By the way those are some very interesting and well thought out points you have made in your post, I very much enjoy conversations about life and religions. My personal view is there is no heaven or hell and there is no big guy on a thrown in the clouds but I do believe in God, goodness and evil.
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Life is self aware and capable of conscious, abstract thought. Whether these qualities arise in an organism or in a machine, that is "life" in it's purest form, and no one can really argue this. Were they ever to arise in a computer program for instance, an AI, in many ways it would be far superior to it's creators just days after it's inception. Given the right conditions, it could have every communications device on the planet running a line or two of it's code, and being plugged into the internet with the ability to learn, it would know everything about nearly everyone and everything that could be known. A man made apparition of God.
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