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Biologists Taboo Artificial Life (overcomingbias.com)
30 points by hirundo 25 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments

> our descendants will most likely be artificial

He accuses biologists for taking it for granted that future space exploration will be by biological humans. But then he himself has an equally strong assumption that it will be by a robotic life form.

He is the author of The Age of Em, which argues for this assumption and explores it. Of course it's speculation, but it's an explicit and expected bias in the context of this blog.


Still, it is a bias which is funny given the title of this blog.

He doesn't assume that "robotic life form[s]" would be more likely to perform future space exploration. He's written (before) about why he thinks that's much more likely.

Lovely overview and critique. Richard K Hamming makes your point too in “The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn”; chapter 2 on rates of progress and the trap of linear perception of exponential change. All looks linear over 10-20 years; but over 50-100 the “exponentiality” of change is shockingly obvious. It is then much easier to perceive the huge phase changes in technology, intelligence, meaning of life and of mind.

At first I thought Artificial Life (ALife) here is about cellular automata, soft robotics, etc. Turns out it's not...or is it?

I am curious to know if ALife is actually heading into the territory mentioned by this article.

> possibility of artificial life at places other than planets, or made out of stuff other than carbon.

I have never heard anyone in physics describe silicon-based (or other) life as "artificial life". There is nothing more or less artificial about silicon-based life compared to carbon-based life. The best description for "artificial life" I can think of is life that is explicitly created by other life; second-order life. I am also not confident that humans aren't some higher-order life themselves.

i don’t think it’s about how likely the “life” is. More about how abundant carbon is when compared to silicon.

I never said anything about likeliness, so I'm not sure who you are replying to. I don't care if carbon-based life is more abundant than silicon or methane or insert something else based life. If life emerges due to nothing other than the forces of nature, and not because of other life, then it's life. It's completely absurd to call silicon-based life that emerges naturally on some other planet "artificial". In fact, "natural selection" and "artificial selection" are two terms coined in biology for this exact distinction: that life can influence the outcomes of other life.

one could go on and say that everything is natural. even if a human in involved. at the end nature created the humans, right?

it’s an arbitrary line that someone drew in the sand

I agree, if something satisfies the conditions of life, then it's life. The distinction between artificial life and non-artificial life is completely anthropocentric. I could even argue that "artificial selection" is a loaded and meaningless term.

Unpopular opinion, but ALife is a stupid term. I think the people who coined it don't know anything about physics, biology, or chemistry. Probably just AI/ML/Robotics people who figured out how to do black-box calculus and think they know everything about the field of intelligence now.

Then your only tool is a hammer...

A silicon crystal based intelligence is also a product of evolution.

It’s possible that the subset of intelligence characteristics obtained on a given matrix of material differs substantially.

I.e. Si based intelligence will always be somewhat different than bio-soup based intelligence.

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