A possible definition of life.

James Foster foster at skink.cs.uidaho.edu
Wed Apr 16 10:51:18 EST 1997

In article <m0wHUt6-0004OBC at uctmail2.uct.ac.za> ed at MOLBIOL.UCT.AC.ZA ("Ed Rybicki") writes:

   No, Matthew: I prefer:

    "Life (anywhere) is the phenomenon associated with th replication of 
   self-coding informational systems".

This is too imprecise.  To which phenomena do you refer?  Replication?
Self-coding?  Decoding?  Translation?  Does your definition make my
copy program alive?  How about my photocopier? 

I remember a philosophy paper in college arguing that thermostats were
alive: they are self regulating, have internal representations, must
be in a host, etc. 

Personally, I think defining life is a fool's errand.  We're not
really interested in "what is life".  Ed is interested in how viruses
do what they do.  Alife people are interested in algorithms which
display interesting behaviors.  You don't have to define the term to
justify what you do, or even as a prerequisite to doing it.
James A. Foster			email: foster at cs.uidaho.edu
Laboratory for Applied Logic	Dept. of Computer Science
University of Idaho		http://www.cs.uidaho.edu/~foster

pgp key available at: ftp://ftp.cs.uidaho.edu/pub/foster/pgp-key.asc

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