Friday, August 02, 2013

A Thought Experiment

So I was thinking about the world, and animals that live within the environments we have created. I thought to myself about how these animals still have to struggle to survive via the food chain, and the misery they'd inevitably inflict on one another in the process. And then I realize that billions (even countless, depending on the scales of one's perspective) of lives are destroyed each year so we ourselves may live. The only difference is we've done it very efficiently, and we've sanitized the process to the point where we hardly think about it anymore. In that context, even vegetarians are not exempt - plants are in fact our living cousins.

So, is it possible for our species to take itself out of that cycle of misery? I think so. We understand DNA, and we understand the processes that create the proteins and biological material we need for survival. That could be our first step ... to take us off the need to kill another (large) living being to survive.

The second step feels far more interesting (to me, at least). As we start to understand the human mental model and consciousness (philosophical issue - is this consciousness even real?), we could even begin to transfer them to non-biological systems. Lots of interesting philosophical questions arise then - what does it mean to be a mental copy of another? To be "me"? What does it mean to live in a non-biological system? The funny thing is even now, it is quite clear that the forces of evolution are not restricted to biological systems. We will still continue to evolve over time as ... well, for lack of a better word, "machines".

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