An Autonomous Agent

exploring the noosphere

Category: investigations

The Future Materials of Earth’s Life-Forms

In Investigations, Stuart Kauffman writes about the adjacent possible. While reading this section I couldn’t help but wonder whether the idea of pollution needed revision. For example, imagine 700 million years into the future and the organisms which may exist. At this time the adjacent possible will have explored one long path in the space of possible paths. I think it would be extremely likely for there to be life forms which incorporate materials which humans have deemed “pollution.” Fish or insects may roam the planet with polyethylene skin or shells. Or imagine a creature with a defense mechanism made of concrete or steel, much like an ankylosaurus — but with a concrete ball at the end of its tail, instead of a calcium bone. I can envision such possibilities  but could they actually occur? As long as materials like concrete, polyethylene, or steel ended up in the food supply, I think this is a potential outcome of evolution.
Thus, are the materials we consider pollution a bad thing for the environment? Because in the future they could be a valuable resource for an organism. Certainly these materials may be toxic to modern life-forms, but what about evolution. Polyethylene never existed in the universe before and neither did concrete, steel and many other materials created by man.
Maybe the young parts of the universe, like the outer arms of spiral galaxies, look at the old galactic center and think “wow! look at all the pollution in the center of the galaxy. There is so much carbon, copper, iron, and oxygen which react with our precious hydrogen.” In other words, pollution is only relative.

Phase Transitions and Signs of Life – Ricard Sole

Phase Transitions by Ricard Sole provides a mathematical account of many current areas of research in the field of of complexity. The book demonstrates the wide range of topics that involve complex systems. I feel that the book would be a good reference for further study, as it contains many references.

I was first introduced to the writings of Sole when I found his book entitled Signs of Life. Signs of Life can be considered as a prelude to Phase Transitions. I believe that it was by accident that I found Sole’s book in the library catalog, or perhaps it was after I had read Emergence The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson. I feel like Johnson mimicked the outline and ideas of Sole, but that is only my opinion.  Sole’s book provides amazing details on the prevalence of complexity all around us. The book provides a simple and easy to read introduction to the concepts of complexity and serves as a starting point for Kauffman’s books Investigations and Origins of Order (both Sole and Kauffman work/worked at the Santa Fe Institute), which I discuss in other posts. (ISBN: 9780691150758)

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