Re: Essence Vital (was)Ahumans

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sat Jan 22 2000 - 06:01:11 MST

On Thu, 20 Jan 2000, Dana Hedberg wrote:

> "Unique and valuable" to whom? It could be argued that the arrangement of
> those molecules that make up the Mona Lisa or the Declaration of Independence
> is no more unique and valuable than the information content of a rock, or
> more appropriately a person-made rock.

You are merging distinctly different things. The *essence* of the
argument is the degree of information content that can be meaningfully
interpreted by someone with regard to how far it is from random "stuff".

Natural rocks, even in their many possible molecular configurations
have significantly less information content than the M.L. or D.o.I.
because to specify the information content of the latter you also
have to specify (in some way) the information content (perspective?)
of the creator *and* the individuals who can *interpret* the creation.
The rock's type and distribution of molecules can be described highly
accurately and there is probably only a very *limited* amount of additional
information (e.g. the history of its formation) that can be determined
from that. The M.L./D.o.I. on the other hand can have volumes written
about what went into them and the impact(s) they have had on other information

Unless you can make an argument that that is true for the rock as
well, I believe your statement to be inaccurate. (While you could
"invent" a system in which the person-made Rock did have the value
of the M.L. or D.o.I., said system doesn't exist currently and as a
result I would say that the uniqueness and value of the rock is less.)

> It is your "interpretation" that assigns value and the quality of
> uniqueness to the information contained in those structures.
> Who's to say that my interpretation of the Mona Lisa as a
> piece of junk (not my actual belief) is any "better" than yours?

It is the degree of separation from simply random organizations
of molecules (and perhaps the driving power to create new non-random
molecular organizations) that determines the "value" and "quality".
That is the entire basis behind extropianism. Random stuff sucks.
Its simply noise. Non-random stuff, particularly that created with
some intention behind it (and which may create further intentions
and non-random stuff) is the alter where we worship (figuratively
speaking of course... :-))

>From a physics standpoint, you have to argue that the rock has
greater negentropy than the Mona Lisa. If the rock were created
to serve as evidence that it came from Mars and demonstrated
the existence of life on Mars a billion years ago, then I might
grant the case, but if its trying to pass as an ordinary hunk
of granite, I would disagree.

> >
> > The only information value of a zygote is its genome. A human
> I might be splitting hairs here, but I think that statement is far too bold.
> There is plenty of "informational value" associated with the structures that
> comprise the zygote outside of just its genome.

These are minimal in nature.

[Scientific Analysis Mode "On".]

The development of a "human" is a standard genetic program. The parental
polymorphisms and imprinting provide probably 90+% of the "individuality"
with the remainder being a small amount of stochastic variation. There is
little additional information provided in the physical maturation process.
A small number of "bits" can say whether or not cell 2,121,937,203 "exists".
The *real* differences only begin to occur when you start accumulating bits of
experience in every day life.

Lets say that your genome has 3 billion bases of DNA, each of which is
2 bits (1 in 4 possibilities) of information. But (conservatively) 90%
of that is junk, so now you are down to 600 million bits (perhaps 75
megabytes). But most of this is just "standard" human biochemistry
(if you don't get it right, you don't live), so what you really need
is the "differences" between you and a generic human. We will say
thats a factor of 1 in 100 (this seems to make sense, since this would
easily allow 20 or more mutations per gene (of ~2000 bases) which seems
very generous), so now your "unique" information is down to around 750
KBytes. By today's standards that isn't very much "unique" information.
Even if you have to multiply it by one or two orders of magnitude to
account for the affects of the cells you "have" or "lost" it still isn't
very much information. [Its worth noting that you should not be tracking
the actual cells you have or lost, but the *difference* that makes in the
overall functioning of the organism.]

Now, lets say you are up to around 100 MB of information for you as
a "physical" being. According to Xenology (from other sources),
your eyes alone process 500 KB/sec.

So in about 3 minutes (assuming scene changes on a per second
basis) your external "data" input matches the information content
of your body at birth. IMO, its no contest.

[Scientific Analysis Mode "off".]

> >
> So, where do you draw the line and for what application of the rules within a
> system? Is the person that you were yesterday "less of a human being" than
> you are today?

If they are running in a "rut", perhaps the answer is yes. From an
entropic viewpoint, given using the energy to generate lots of new
information vs. simply re-running the same old patterns, the obvious
answer is vote for the new and interesting.

> Where do children fit along the continuum, not to mention
> other species that are significantly related humans?

It depends entirely on the degree to which they are generating
organized information. Children do this highly effectively.
You could have two very different but interesting figures of
merit. "Absolute organized information" and the 1st derivative
"rate of change of organized information". Both have high valuations
depending on the context.

> What is the *objective* criteria that can be used to lay down the
> threshhold line that says: On this side you are not "human" and over
> on this side you are?

You can't do this and "human" is irrelevant. What matters is the
information content. In that respect, offing a highly creative,
even "brilliant" pig for dinner may be much more questionable than
putting a very low IQ human permanently to sleep. Assume for the
sake of argument that the calories going to feed one could be used
to feed the other and what you are interested in is maximization of
overall intelligence (and side effects) on the planet. Look at
the overall impact of not eating the pig if he gets a spot on Jay
Leno that convinces millions of people to become vegetarians overnight!
Compare that to the impact the human would have had on net negentropy.

> I think this issue is
> a lot more complicated than your summary posting would indicate. Hence the
> controversy associated with abortion, animal rights, etc.

I agree with this. The issue is very complicated and but to my
thinking it is due to the *huge* difference between the
information content of genomes and minds that is unrecognized
by most.


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