Alan Jones wrote:The recycling of chemicals that are vital for Earth life is effected by plate tectonics which would be shut down if the mantle were not hydrated (compare Venus). Relatively early in Earth's history cyanobacteria began to produce huge amounts of oxygen that combine with hydrogen, reforming water, and mitigating the removal of hydrogen (and water) by the solar wind (as apparently occurred on Mars).
That's an extraordinary and deep connection. I didn't realise that the great oxygenation maintained plate tectonics.
Steve3007 wrote:On the subject of replacing our biological bodies with robotic parts for the purpose of long haul space flight and other environments in which our bodies did not evolve and are therefore not suited to:
I suppose there's nothing fundamentally special about the parts being robotic or mechanical. The key feature is simply their ability to withstand hostile environments. So perhaps another option is some kind of enhancement of our biology, while keeping the same general "design". Perhaps changes to our DNA which leave our essential characteristics but protect against (for example) cancers.
Genetic engineering may be an interim measure but even extremophile humans will be more vulnerable than synthetics. Consider the Venera lander that survived for almost an hour on Venus's surface. Not even tardigrades could cope with that kind of punishment.
Steve3007 wrote:Also, at the other end of the scale: The other alternative is to do away with both human bodies and robotic bodies and just transmit the "software". Install it in new hardware at the other end. I guess really I'm then talking about a form of teleportation, but with an explicit recognition that the body at the other end is not the body that was transmitted.
Yes, that makes sense. Digital representation again poses the question as to whether the copy is "you". In the absence of "the original", I'll say yes. No one else would be closer ... and if it walks and quacks like a duck ... :)
-- Updated 18 Sep 2017, 17:27 to add the following --
JamesOfSeattle wrote:I just wanted to inject a few thoughts into Greta and Steve's discussion:
1. I see no reason that the human race will end after our artificial progeny colonize the galaxy. Why can't we just go along for the ride, albeit a few steps behind? On a related note, I think the Earth will last a lot longer than people think. I don't think the sun will expand and engulf the Earth on schedule. Why would we let that happen?
2. Instead of adapting our bodies to the harsh conditions of space, why don't we just fix the harsh conditions? I have every intention of visiting Mars, but not until the intelligent robots have made it safe and comfortable. (No pioneer, I.)
I'm no pioneer either. I won't upgrade Windows until it's had a couple of updates - let the early adopters act as canaries in the cyber coal mine :)
It is true that our models of the future don't tend to take into account the most profound part of reality - the emergence of sentient, intelligent life with the ability to change ecosystems and environments. Still, humans had best hurry because the heating effects will be felt long before the Sun starts to bloat. Changing Earth's orbit in a controlled way will require enormous advances on the current state of play.
Also, the word "we" almost certainly won't apply to the future, alas. I can't see Homo machina (ultra wealthy, highly technologically enhanced) granting the far poorer, simpler and weaker Homo sapiens equal rights. "We", or our descendants, will be chattel, about as disregarded as animals are by humans.
-- Updated 18 Sep 2017, 17:58 to add the following --
Very good points, especially in the context of the "larger evolution". However, I wouldn't immediately conclude that organic life is doomed in this universe and inconsequential to that "larger evolution". As species, we have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, relative to the geological history of our planet. It's logical to stipulate, with the current "path" towards the AI and possible future of the "synthetic" silicon based life, that the "larger evolution" will mostly "select" for such synthetic life. Yet, we already have the "code" for the conscious life but are still subject to a "selfish" egocentric perspective of being the "center" of the universe, which in the way is true but it would take this topic on a tangent in an attempt to justify such claim.
We can easily design a "monolith" for "creation of life" and "human knowledge", to be "sent" into the "future" in a capsules of "time" to germinate and take foothold elsewhere in space and time to continue the "human evolution", after we "leave" the existence on this planet. Perhaps, this is how we came to existence in the first place?
Arthur C. Clarke's monolith idea was an interesting one - the man was a genius. Then again, is such a dedicated and advanced monolith needed? Any advanced machinery left lying around (that is robust enough to avoid being pulled apart to make simple tools) could function similarly. Fledgling intelligent species would surely work to reverse-engineer it. Imagine if an advanced alien space craft was found in the 1800s. Scientists and generals would be falling over themselves to be the first to understand how it worked.
I didn't mean to downplay organic life - nothing is even close to as complex and advanced, so far. For all we know, biology may be an essential step between simple geology and sentient geology. Or there could be a toggling between the modes, eg. if AI settled on another planet after the Earth went kaput, maybe they would evolve increasingly biological features, starting a new round of evolution?
Another possibility is that biology is actually "the main game in town". Maybe all the AI and structures that encapsulate and protect the precious biological kernel within are just helpful structures, akin to the non living protective structures and resources within seeds?
Another possibility is that the marriage of humans and their machines, biology and geology, will create a new emergence of multicellularity, but this time at a sentient level. So we'd have human families of "mitochondria" who are captive within and powering a "cell", ie. home/office (since the traffic, air and climate outside will be unfriendly), and they would be fed energy and information by the "organism".
People talk about AI taking over humanity but I don't see machines ever being motivated to do it, or anything, with the main danger seemingly the "paperclip maximiser" scenario (out of control AI designed to turn any material into paper clips reduces the planet's surface to a layer of every recycling paper clips). Motivation, as far as I can tell, is something that animals have. The greater risk would seem to be how humans use AI than what AI may do of its own accord.