Carl Sagan, “Cosmos”, Episode 2: A Voice in the Cosmic Fugue

In the above episode, aired 1980, Sagan explores the topic of our evolution from space dust to the life we see today. Towards the end there’s an update, recorded 10 years later, during which he considers what the study of biology would be like if we had a second example of life.

20 years later, Gerald Joyce has created life-like { evolving RNA molecules }, aided only by the researchers’ addition of “food” & environment maintenance. He hopes to soon enable them to become more like life — to create their own sustenance, and to become a self-sufficient biosphere. A second example of life, created in the lab. Almost.

Elsewhere, NIST researchers are { wrapping carbon nanotubes in modified DNA strands } to “select for one of the [preferred] semiconductor forms of carbon nanotubes”.

EDIT // August 30, 2011:
{ NIST finds carbon nanotube reliability problems }

••••••

I wonder if hardware and computers (as opposed to wetware) will be the correct medium for artificial intelligence, as we proceed into the future?

Princeton wordnet defines AI as:

the branch of computer science that deal with writing computer programs that can solve problems creatively; “workers in AI hope to imitate or duplicate intelligence in computers and robots”

That’s the contemporary idea. But what happens when we begin creating biological life-forms, biological machines, and teaching them? Currently the question is more in the realm of sci-fi than science, but… if the Artificial is that “made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally”, where does that place lab-made life and its intelligence? Is it AI? Or is it not, because that’s something more like instigating a natural process than it is programming an imitation of life? It’s especially curious in terms of post-humanism, in understanding AI as an imitation that (at the Singularity?) becomes sentient, and self-sufficient — becomes a living bundle of atoms… kind of like in Egan’s { Permutation City }…

  1. olena posted this