Definition of Life

Paul Schlosser SCHLOSSER at ciit.org
Wed Feb 9 14:59:56 EST 1994


In   <1994Feb9.181250.20098 at iitmax.iit.edu>
garfinkl at iitmax.acc.iit.edu (Mark D. Garfinkel)

writes of the "Artificial Life" programs devised by CS researchers.

One might also consider computer viruses, esp. those that may modify
themselves.

In this discussion, is the object to include only those things which we, in a
qualitative sense, "know" are alive (ie, is the object to come up with a 
definition which excludes computer programs, matrices in clay, etc.), or is the
object to devise an "objective" definition of life, which might end-up including
some "beasts" that were not previously considered to be alive?  In the
former case, there is a set of objects which we recognize as "alive" and
we want a definition which includes that set entirely, and nothing else.
But in recognizing this set as "alive", we are in fact employing an
unstated, intuitive definition of life (does it move, breath, suck water,
etc.) which seems highly circular.  To avoid this ptifall of logic, and
avoid a terribly complex definition of life, it seems that one may end up
including some things as "alive" which, by our previous, intuitive sense,
are not.

Maybe the set of "living" things is fractal: there is no hard border, if you
look close enough.

Paul
schlosser at beta.ciit.org



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