Saturday, 29 April 2017

Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of matter.

Consciousness is an emergent property of matter, or more properly, of matter/energy/space/time. The building blocks of life from hydrocarbons and even an amino acid have been detected over and over in space.  The properties of long chain carbons, organic loops, the alcohols and sugars will appear whenever conditions permit their propagation.  The double helix is a possible solution everywhere in the universe. There may be a couple other replicating combinations which will show up in locations with different chemical feedstocks.  Locally we have a lot of oxygen, carbon, water, as well as temperature and light gradients that have proved propitious for the appearances of life on earth.   What's next, I wonder?

This line of thought predicts other non-earth life forms will show up and many of them will have properties that resemble our own. This is because DNA folding machines are likely to pop up elsewhere and trial and error in those environments will result in convergent evolutions.  On earth, eyes are formed from different tissue in houseflies, squid and marmots but because of the information available in focused light, have developed homologous shapes to resolve that data.  The underlying properties of light are driving the solutions.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel,

Our amazement at how clever we are and our fierce individuality are compatible with being emergent phenomena.  "Individual" means that which is not divided.  If the source is undivided, the result can also be undivided.  Each of us fiercely advancing our cause and that of our near kin is reflecting the "character" of this emergent property.  Peculiar evidence is the name we call our selves to distinguish ourselves from background noise.  In English, it's "Me" and "I".    More than a billion of us use the same I.D.  

I bridge "individuality" to physical "law" with this thought:   Every particle/wave/string/thingy is constantly moving towards a new equilibrium, like the breaking crest on the surf.  They/it are always reacting totally in the now to unique tussles and sparks of action, being bumped, being pushed, being transformed, consuming, being consumed, burning, being burnt.   It's always everywhere about being individual but doesn't rise to the level of dinner conversation until noticed in ourselves.

Getting from DNA folding devices that copy bodies and make new ones..... getting from there to people who self-report having consciousness.... is a step not decoded.   But the next step beyond into A.I. is already being coded.  More activities that people consider human distinctives are being handed on to computing devices that do it better with less effort.

We (that are starting to be left behind but supported comfortably) are spending hours texting, Wall-E where devices seem to be looking after stuff and people are largely plump passive things like larvae in a networked cocoon.)
playing solitaire, watching groups fighting to control balls and pucks, developing skills of small value, because we feel like it.    (A movie illustration is the cartoon

We are even leaving ourselves behind, finding it unnecessary to reproduce, or just making one or two copies, not enough to keep our population numbers up.   We still use naturally produced DNA instead of superior custom-designed product.  We still mostly use wombs for the reproduction workshops because we didn't have superior safe places to get the job done.  This is changing.  This future won't eliminate old ways, just displace the ones that can't hack it.

I've watched a grassland fire, seen the thin line of fire steadily advance across the field, consuming the consumables and moving on.  Today I think we are some of those consumables and tomorrow may be a place where the fire has moved on and left behind most of us and most of the robots too.

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