Abstract: Machines are obsolete as a foremost paradigm. So are Turing Machines, and thus Artificial Intelligence, the old fashion way. Instead, what truly animates the world, is the Quantum, which is everywhere (literally, and figuratively!). Biology, as found on Earth, is a particular case of nanotechnology animated by the Quantum.
Our expanding science can now harness the latter in its full generality. I propose to call it ULTRABIOLOGY (to distinguish it from the wishy-washy senility of quaint thoughts emanating from millennia past).
Machines are an old idea. Egyptians already used steam to open temples’ doors. What is a machine? It’s a bit like an avalanche: something initially small, leading to great effects, without human intervention.
“Postbiological evolution” is a fashionable concept envisioned by some Artificial Intelligence guys (as the Note at the end reveals, this plutocracy associated crowd is suspect). According to them, evolution would have transitioned from a biological paradigm, driven by the propagation of genes, to a “nonbiological paradigm“, driven by some “alternative replicator”. Blah blah blah.
This picture, abundantly represented in science-fiction, is not correct, and reflects the ignorance of modern physics, and biology, chronic among those who have learned much “code”, and little else besides.
Code without science is intelligence without understanding, and way too much money.
Indeed, a problem is that the codists make a lot of money, presidents receive them, tail wagging, and those basically ignorant people end up steering civilization with asinine notions that undermine contemporary civilization. One of them being that code is everything.
Instead, the Quantum shows that code is nothing much.
I propose instead that synthetic biology (a concept evoked by Leduc in 1912!) is the correct QUANTUM concept that will occupy the future. Synthetic biology will go beyond (‘ultra’) existing biology, so I propose to call it “ultrabiology”. This is state of the art: we have Albert Einstein himself on the record, aghast from some of the notions therein deployed. Such as non-locality. Which turns out to be crucial to biology (and not to “code”, hahaha).
It is true that we can now erect great structures: bridges, airports, energy networks. Some look alive, like giant mechanical cranes. It is true that modern computers can give a life-like appearances to those machines. However, classical mechanics is not all and only what biology is about. Far from it.
BIOLOGY IS CREATIVELY ADAPTATIVE:
First biology is about the creative inheritance of the most complex geometric structures or their descendants. Genes are only a particular case. And a particularly rigid one at that.
Geometric structures inherited? What am I talking about? Look at prions, a form of replicating proteins. Look at the machinery inside bacteria, which reproduces by duplication without genes’ intervention.
Is biology creative? Think of what Lamarck proposed, epigenetics. Epigenetics is now finally demonstrated. Research journals are full of epigenetics kits… for sale.
Epigenetics says that a life experience, what the Greeks called the “bio” modifies not just the genes (say with a mutation), but the expression of these genes (say with an above-genetics process called “methylation”). Some of these epigenetical processes are inheritable: abusing a child will affect genetically the child’s descendants, several generations removed (at least this has been demonstrated in rats).
This has the interesting consequence that a nation of beaten dogs should become a race, or species, of beaten dogs. (Those who want to explain the history of nations that way are referred to Nietzsche, for further singing… Or may feel like enslaving the Slavs again… Although that does not work ever since Ivan became terrible…)
There is more to life’s creativity, than epigenetics. It goes to the heart of physics, a heart neither the ancients nor their machines guessed the nature of, when they thought about physics. The first who had an inkling of the new paradigm was probably Huyghens (who suggested that light was a wave).
Life’s spectacular adaptive creativity is why scientists have been afraid that Earth life would propagate to Mars (probes landing there are thoroughly sterilized). It’s also why many animals were able to adapt genetically to radiation around Chernobyl (which averages around 40 times normal).
ULTIMATELY, BIOLOGY IS CREATIVELY ADAPTATIVE BECAUSE OF THE QUANTUM:
Partisans of “postbiology” may suggest that epigenetics is mechanically reproducible. In full, that’s unlikely. Why? Because even the chlorophyll molecule, the centerfold of life on Earth, uses the Quantum. How? By using the most striking property of the Quantum.
The most striking property of the Quantum is NON LOCALITY. Quantum processes are all about exploring all available space at once: this is the most striking difference with classical mechanics, which is, in its modern version, about fields propagating at finite speed.
Being everywhere at once allows a Quantum driven process to find the lowest energy solution, and that’s exactly what makes the chlorophyll molecule so efficient. All of the life we have now depends upon the sun through chlorophyll (one way, or another; even around thermal vents).