RE: is a network of humans alive? (was: meaning of life)

From: denis bider (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 05:49:27 MST

James Rogers writes:

> All you've described is an efficient market, not a living being.

Yes, you could say that, although an 'efficient market' is just a subset of
what I described.

You are right to state that my speculations are based on a very loose
definition of what a 'living being' is.

> Your definition of "living thing" is awfully loose. You
> could apply that definition to any number of mechanical
> devices that you would probably agree are not alive.

But then, maybe I can ask you this: suppose we manage to produce an AI out
of silicon. How is that AI a living being?

Suppose an AI appears out of a vast network of computers, as some people
speculate. Since each individual computer can easily 'survive' on its own,
how does that affect the whole network as a 'living being'?

My speculations have a similar basis as the speculations that sentience may
arise out of a network of computers, only I am using a network of humans as
my underlying element. My claim is that, as the communications between the
nodes in the network become more efficient, the entire network takes on a
greater resemblance to living things. I also claim that this would
especially show when the network is challenged to respond to an external
event as a single, coordinated entity. Whereas at other times, when there is
no need to respond in coordinated manner, the network may show little
resemblance to a living thing. [One might then even say that it is 'asleep',
but I don't want to stretch you too far...]

> So then you agree that "group entities" of humans are built
> entirely on voluntary participation and are by no means
> necessary for individual survival.


They do seem to be necessary for what we consider comfortable survival,
though. A human being with no support from other human beings has a very
limited potential.

> Your "society" is an arbitrary application of grouping.
> What is your metric for "society"? If I can voluntary
> join or voluntarily leave a group, at what point am I
> designated "a member of society" regardless of my
> individual disposition?

This doesn't seem relevant to me - I think you're asking this because you're
limiting yourself to a stricter definition of what a 'living being' might be
than I do.

Note also, I do not state that a 'group entity' is entirely a living being;
I'm only saying that group entities do sometimes (or often, depending on the
entity) resemble properties characteristical to living beings. Hence, such a
'group entity' might in a way be considered alive, although according to a
strict definition it is of course not.

But then, how do I know whether you are alive or not? You might be just a
simulation. I only see text that appears as if it originated from an entity
named "James Rogers". I have no reason to believe that you are actually

You seem to be using the biological definition of 'living', which seems to
me irrelevant for this discussion.

> Many types of cells cannot survive on their own. Ones
> that can (or collections that can) are individual organisms.
> Two creatures living in symbiosis are not the same creature.
> A cell that can choose to disassociate itself from the
> organism and survive is an individual organism in its own right.

True, of course. Again, I am viewing the situation in a manner that seems
somewhat more relaxed than yours. If you want to operate with your strict
definition, you are of course correct.

And somewhat limited by ordinary definitions, too.

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