Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another branch in the Evolution of the TransOrganic

In a recent post, Welcome to the true TransOrganic Age we looked at the development of a technology that will enable a computer to create new life forms on demand. In this earlier essay we looked at the computer as the parent of the new life form where the machine code determines the process of assembling the DNA code.

In this essay we look at the other end of the spectrum, replacing the organic parts with synthetic parts to create life.

When computers become sentient, a new order of life will emerge. This will be an order of life which favors organic/machine integration such as we have seen portrayed in AVATAR and The Terminator series. Control of production in such a world will shift from DNA based life to trans-organic technology. Human, and other DNA based life forms, purpose in the world will be dependent on their economic value to the super-organic creatures which dominate the planet. These creatures will weigh the value of DNA life relative to non-DNA life for their survival their technological complexes and chose accordingly. This is another way of saying that societies and civilizations will struggle for survival based on the competition between, human capital or DNA capital and non-DNA capital represented by technology.

James Cameron's Avatar presents a fictional depiction of what this future might be like. The battle between "humanity" and "technology" is played out here on many levels. The Corporation, a super-organic entity representing Earth, is driven by its need for "food", the mineral Unobtanium which is found on Pandora. It is this premise which drives the story line.

One plot line which stands out, Jake Sully's story, is based on the fact that today's robotic and prosthetic technologies are breaking new ground in treating the human body traumatized by war, accidents and natural disasters. New ways to restore function to damaged bodies offer new opportunities for individuals to return as productive members of society. It creates economic value as well as a new economy for the super-organic civilization.

The wedding of technology with the human body began some 250,000 years ago with the first use of animal skins for protection from the elements. Today, this union has evolved to where we might expect the next generation will have a blue tooth implanted at birth to insure they have instant communication across the planet.

At the University of Reading, Kevin Warwick and Ben Whalley have taken an different and interesting approach. Build the machine and implant an organic brain. They have inserted a rats brain tissue into an mechanical robot and demonstrate how this organic brain can learn to control its mechanical body.

If the mind is the home of the soul, and brain the loci of mind, then here we have an alternative evolution track. Detach the organic soul from the organic constraints of the organic body. Then enable the soul to survive in a hostile physical environment by installing it into the appropriate robotic container. This may be a necessary step for humanity as a species to seed the universe with earth born intelligent life.

What does this mean for our mortality, our morality and our humanity?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Welcome to the evolution to the true TransOrganic Age

Here is the announcement of the end of organic man as the dominate species on Earth and the raise of non organic man-made technology as the next evolutionary order of earthly life.

On April 25, 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick published their ground breaking paper Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid Today, a little over 57 years later, mankind can claim to have truly unlocked the secrets of the the gods: "How to create life through technological and non-organic means". Technology, building on the human capacity to change the environment has emerged as the TRANS-ORGANIC order of life.

As a graduate student in anthropology, I was fascinated by Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I speculated on what that future would mean to our definition of "human". That was 52 years ago.

Later, 38 years ago, the story was transformed into the Ridley Scott's 1982 Sci Ft classic movie, Blade Runner. Blade Runner depicted a distant future where the boundary between organic and trans-organic orders of life become blurred.

Suddenly, that future appears to be a lot closer to reality. The following, posted and presented on TED in May 2010, marks the public announcement of how technology, through the computer, will be able to create new life forms. Four bottles of chemicals, and a computer program and maybe an advanced HP chemical printer, life is created. How long before we can do this at home on our Iphone?

Humanity's capacity to create solutions to its evolutionary problems by technological means has been nature's unique adaptive strategy for our species. Now the tables appear to be turned. Nature and evolution will be directed by Technology using the tools discovered and invented by human for its purposes. The capability of purposefully synthesizing DNA marks the emergence of The Trans-organic Order of life.

What will this mean for our species in 10, 20, or 50 years?