Friday, June 24, 2005

Only 1,000 years ago, all of humankind, their livestock and pets, represented just 0.1% of the vertebrate life mass on the planet. By 2050, if we do nothing but survive, this number will exceed 85%. And if our computers spring to life and join us, our livestock and our pets, then in total we will represent 99.9%. In just 1000 years, the balance of life on planet Earth will have been inverted by us and our technology, and evolution will have taken a giant leap.

This scenerio seems to suggest a symbiosis, a merged evolution between our technology and us: the question is whether it will be a self-organising shift or one engineered by us.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

'All biological organisms function as information processors. They take in information about their environment, process it, and use it to locate the necessary energy sources for survival' (Peter Cochrane).

This assertion is neither new nor surprising. We have known for a long time that the human being is comprised of the most wondrous information processes - DNA is our biological computer. So the question that raises its promethian head is about the shape of the next stage of our evolution.

Many voices call towards AI - robotic intelligence, perhaps met mid-way through cybernetic organisms (cyborgs) that merge the biological with silicon (or 'synthetic' as some refer to it). Perhaps a useful standpoint is to recognise that all materiality - whether 'natural' or 'synthetic' - is produced from an arrangement of atoms. If atoms can be arranged, engineered, to be more proficient information processors, then this might be the edge in terms of what signifies future directions. Molecular engineering is now working upon nano-computers, and work is being undertaken to merge this with the biological.

Nanoscientists and biochemical engineers are starting to play with DNA not as replicating code, but as physical tools for nanoassembly. This shift towards nano-computing entails a re-thinking of what is considered to be human. If our theological debates have entrusted us with the knowledge that our species were made in God's image, then what if this was a clue (omen?) to a future scenerio where the human is able to re-design itself in order to become a more efficient information-processor with computational-like abilities. The atoms, molecular level, of material existence is both more wondrous than we presently know, yet also the building blocks of our backyard. Perhaps the shift towards a silicon-based intelligence is merely a product of our present industrial-computational mindset yet misses the link. The link being that biological DNA will be tweeked and engineered into the most efficient computational system whilst securing the biological resonance and relationship with the environment that is afforded a species that has evolved for millions of years in conjunction with its mileu, unlike AI intelligence.

The question remains as to whether the future will be one of Info-Tech or Bio-Tech - or a symbiosis of both?