If Microbes begat Mind – Quotes
QUOTES from Zann Gill in
If Microbes begat Mind: from origins of life to emergence of intelligence
The frequency of loops in the origin and synthesis of life invokes one disturbing loop in the transition from life’s origins to its futures. Extremophiles, candidates for original life on Earth, thrive in sewage outfalls, corroding cylinders of nuclear waste, oil spills and effluent. Could human civilization figuratively “rewind the tape” to create a future environment on Earth where these organisms will thrive and humanity will be extinct?
If so, the experiment of evolving advanced life on Earth could be run again “from soup to man” and in another few billion years sentient beings might search the fossils for our remains.
If we “rewound the tape,” so Earth could start all over again, with only small variations so that events would not repeat themselves exactly, would we expect to see the origin of life a second time? Or, on another planet similar to Earth, what is the probability that life would start? If we as a human species could rewind our own tape, what might we do differently?
The problems we deem important determine how we explore new frontiers, whether in outer space or in our minds. What we think determines how we act. And how we act has consequences.
Delving into debates about evolution convinced me that random variation and environmental selection through “survival of the fittest” alone was inadequate to model how we think — that a tight coupling exists between how we have misunderstood design and how we have also misunderstood both the origin of life and its evolution. If our understanding of design is restricted to the half domain of top-down design, we have no term to describe how the origin of life occurred. We need to reclaim the word “design” to describe a foundational discipline for understanding the origin of life. Evolution is life’s way of designing itself, bottom up. Life designs itself through recognizing and retaining what works, and discarding what doesn’t work, which complements environmental selection in biasing evolutionary directions.
If etymology determined meaning, computing, from the Latin com-putare, would mean “to contemplate things” (putare) “together” (com), in essence contemplating collaboration.
The first (tree-like) problem-solving strategy arrives at a single uniform code throughcompetition and “survival of the fittest” (code), while the second (web-like) strategy arrives at a uniform code through collaboration and sharing information (code).
If a partial correlation can be drawn between a multi-faceted individual mind working creatively on a problem, and many individuals collaborating effectively together, then observing a collaborative group creative process should shed light on the creative process in individual minds, which cannot be observed.
By examining how the scientific community designs hypotheses, principles emerge that characterize individual creativity at its peak and group collaboration at its most effective, principles such as collaborative autonomy, harnessing uncertainty, designing tolerance windows, and forming criteria to accept or reject interim results.
In chess what matters more to the outcome of the game? Is it possible strategies to win the game, or possible strategies to win the game in the mind of the player that will determine the outcome of the game?
Perception participates in creating the next reality. If internal perception is a driving force in evolution, it sits alongside its well-accepted counterpart, the environment, which can only select what survives from what already exists. A strategy may exist as implicit potential, but it is the player who must recognize its value and act on it, making it explicit.
Does life evolve as its own designer, recognizing patterns to make behavioral choices? If so, when the environment selects which organisms will survive, it assesses life’s behavioral choices — its smart moves.
Contrasting Zubrin’s expansionist vision with Ward and Brownlee’s vision of our Earth as Ark, perhaps these different views are less significant than the conflicting practical imperatives and future scenarios they imply. The first assumes that our imperative is to expand to new frontiers — to conquer space. The “level” of our civilization will be defined by expansion. The second asserts that our imperative is stewardship of Earth, which will define our self-awareness and the advancement of our civilization.
Many questions about the origin of life threaten infinite regress. What question might precede that first question? What begat whatever begat whatever begat life? One way to escape infinite regress is to construct a cycle that bites its own tail and so kickstarts itself into existence.