Re: life vs. non-life

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 20:39:29 MST

denis bider wrote:
> > associate different functional characteristics
> > with "life" and "nonlife".
> Oh yes, another question. What would these different functional
> characteristics be? Ie, how does 'life' differ from 'non-life', other than
> by definition?

Well, my usual definition of life is "Life is anything designed primarily
by evolution, plus all processes which exhibit sentience." Mules are
alive, biological viruses are alive, computer viruses are not alive, and
artificial sentiences are alive by special clause.

Societies are not alive. There is such a thing as memetic evolution but
it is not the primary shaper of a society. Actually, I just find the
statement "a society is alive" to be annoying, a cheesegrater on my
nerves, like a blackboard being dragged across a wall of severed fingers.
It's a different analogy in the same vein that I really hate, but
fortunately nobody has brought it up yet.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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