Author Topic: The first wet alife?  (Read 12693 times)

Offline jknilinux

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The first wet alife?
« on: January 12, 2009, 01:43:39 PM »
Hi everyone,

Here's something I found interesting. The first truly artificial life might just have been created... Depending on your definition of life. Just wondered what you all thought. Is it really alive yet? If not, when will it be? Either way, it's still pretty cool.

Offline ikke

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2009, 02:32:29 AM »
To me it's life, but I couldn't tell you why. I do not consider zerobots evolved to reproduce life (nor any other digital replicator). I'm not sure if there is really a difference. In both cases we an artificial environment, replication within that environment and one could even argue a physical presence (chemical for the enzymes, and electromagnetic for the bots). Somehow it feels different. I guess I have more affinity for enzymes than for electromagnetic pulses and photons.

Offline Numsgil

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2009, 09:20:55 AM »
Wet alife has really taken off in the last few years.  It's all pretty primitive, but we're not that far off from artificial bacteria.  A decade or less I'd say.

Offline jknilinux

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2009, 04:39:27 PM »
The JCVI institute is actually very close to making the first artificial bacterium already, based on M. Genitalium.
So I agree that definitely within the decade, and quite possibly within the next year or two, we might have the first artificial bacterium as well.

Here's a problem though: Will researchers need "dry" alife, like DB, once we can just make custom bacteria and ribozymes?

And ikke: Then would you think a clanking replicator is alive? If it is, then is a "symbiotic" RepRap alive? If a clanking replicator isn't alive, then what is the difference between a really small clanking replicator and a ribozyme replicator? Defining life is definitely a tough problem!

Offline Numsgil

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2009, 02:33:00 AM »
The benefit of in silico artificial life, like Darwinbots, is that you can run some very tightly controlled, highly accelerated experiments.  Real life has lots of factors that are hard to control, not to mention even with bacteria it can take years to get enough generations.

Offline ikke

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2009, 03:07:56 AM »
Quote from: jknilinux
And ikke: Then would you think a clanking replicator is alive? If it is, then is a "symbiotic" RepRap alive? If a clanking replicator isn't alive, then what is the difference between a really small clanking replicator and a ribozyme replicator? Defining life is definitely a tough problem!
Nice examples to provide food for thought. I know it is inconsistent, but instinctively I would not consider the reprap life. I feel it lack autonomy in replication. It needs to be told to (self) replicate by and engineer, so no life. But would it be life if I replaced engineer by phase of the moon? Is its autonomy decreased by having to need to tell the machine it needs to replicate itself, as opposed to any other device?

Maybe the discussion on this is life and that is not tells more about the human need to set itself apart from everything else. In that respect it might mirror the discussion on what constitutes intelligence. In order to set us apart from animals we have the term intelligence, without a clear definition. To have something that sets us apart from other lumps of cosmic dust, something that makes us unique we have the term life. In both cases if we discover not to be so unique, we change the definition we have.
Maybe in the end it is about statistics. Of all the matter in the universe, only a certain fraction has the ability to interact with other matter (due to physical distance, or chemical incompatibility, for instance). Of that fraction only a fraction can interact in a way that constitutes selfreplication. Of the selfreplicating fraction only a certain fraction interacts in a way that shows conditional use of external inputs. Of that fraction only a fraction is ‘intelligent’.
To make matters complicated, there is also the gliding scale aspect. The aforementioned categories are discrete. Either it does or does not. To what category does an entity belong if it is done sometimes?

Offline Numsgil

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2009, 11:44:53 AM »
That's most of life for you.  Things we consider black and white, on closer inspection, have a gray area gradient between them.  There are definitely things that are not alive.  A diamond, for instance, undergoes virtually no change over millions of years.  And there are some things definately alive.  Us, for instance.  But what about fire?  In a particular sense it's sort of like primitive life.  It feeds and replicates and dies.  But if you don't want fire in your definition of life, you have to invent more qualifications (subject to evolution, etc.).  In the end lawyers will determine what is and is not alive, but it won't change the fact that there is actually a large gradient of different life like processes.

Offline ikke

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2009, 12:06:15 PM »
A colleague mentioned being sentient as a requirement for being alive. A nice addition to the discussion, and a factor I hadn't considered. It has the same issues with definition and gliding scale as all the other elements, but was to me a relevant addition.

Offline Numsgil

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2009, 12:15:20 PM »
That's a pretty narrow definition.  Would mean trees aren't alive.

Offline ikke

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2009, 02:10:52 AM »
Quote from: Numsgil
That's a pretty narrow definition.  Would mean trees aren't alive.
One could argue that for instance a tree's response to parasites can be proof of sentience

Offline peterb

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2009, 09:18:15 AM »
note that cristals also grow under the right environment, okay they dont replicate.
But how a bush fire, it does replicate to other trees.
I think with live, a definition is required, and that might get complex.


But I think it should respond to its environment, with a strategy to survive environment dangers.

For example the bushfire shouldnt run out of trees. So it needs a way to conserve itself.
A simple biological virus, folows simple rules often, but their numbers make them survive.
But then what about the wheater patern, its shifting and continously changing, and its a closed system on itself.
There should be a next rule I think that such systems are not called life, but be called environment.

An environment is a system that folows rules of its own, wich are generated by itself.
Its a system which is often chaotic in nature, and has no goal to survive, it simply is there, like space itself.


Then is darwinbots life ?
It is artificial life, in a sense that its enviroment is based on math, it folows simple rules so it can stay alive in that area.
The area is however verry limited, a bots definition doesnt work on a different planet with no computers.

So a next rule for more comonly known life might be :
That it can deal with its chemical environment, as if it contains a language, a system (biomolecular bioligy) to interact in its environment.

But maybe appart from known life it could also exist in, plasma, radiation, quantum fields, etc, things we now hardly understand.











Offline Testlund

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2009, 06:39:36 PM »
My criteria for life:

1. It can mutate
2. It can make copies of itself
3. It can grow or change

In this I think we have two sub categories:

1. Real life made through some planetary event
2. Artificial life made by humans

But I could agree that there is a grey zone here which may be hard to define.

Quote from: ikke
Quote from: Numsgil
That's a pretty narrow definition.  Would mean trees aren't alive.
One could argue that for instance a tree's response to parasites can be proof of sentience

The same thing could be said when you turn the key in your car it sends an electric impulse that starts the engine. Like electrical impulses from our brain causes the heart to beat and lungs to breath.
Maybe we're godly builders evolving more and more complex creations with our creativity.
One day we may have artificial beings walking around calling us gods that will in turn create their own things, which may in turn become more advanced to create things....in an endless process.
In any case these beings will have evidence somebody created them.  
« Last Edit: January 21, 2009, 06:41:26 PM by Testlund »
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Offline Numsgil

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2009, 08:36:52 AM »
Trees could maybe be considered sentient if you use the philosophical definition instead of the scifi term for "what separates man from the other animals", and if you take a very broad stance on what sensation and experience mean.  But then your definition of life is so broad as to be worthless.

Offline Testlund

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2009, 11:25:43 AM »
Could philosophy be used to answear that? Philosophy in my opinion is more about purpose and meaning of things. To ponder the reasons behind it all.
I think we need to define some criteria that must exist to call something sentient.
It is difficult because you must question the meaning of the word and when it's right to use it. Maybe some words have to be redifined, like life for instance.
Maybe being alive means being functional, while dead means something that doesn't function at all, like a car without fuel. Maybe life is burning of energy.
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Offline Numsgil

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The first wet alife?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2009, 12:43:18 PM »
The common definition of life I was taught in school was evolution, reaction to stimulus, independent reproduction, movement, made of one or more cells, uses DNA, and maybe one or two other points I forget.  In my mind, instead of defining life, I would define life-like properties, and have something's "aliveness" be a measure of those properties.  Fire has some life-like properties, but lacks any ability to evolve.  Viruses can't independently reproduce, but they can evolve, etc. etc.

The philosphical definition of sentience is the ability to perceive pain and pleasure.  It's commonly used in animal rights arguments.  In scifi, it tends to mean something with the spark of intelligence or self-awareness which separates Humans from the lower animals (and a trait we might have on common with other "intelligent" life).