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A possible definition of life.

Tom Roger Kise tomk at ifi.uio.no
Wed May 7 05:11:13 EST 1997

Peter Bentley wrote:
> > ......... Someone has also pointed
> > out the mix between biological question about life and the metaphysical
> > question about life in this discussion. If not necessarely biological, I
> > think this thread really is not about the metaphysical part (try
> > comp.ai.philosophy), but you will all decide yourself.
> It's a shame that you feel the need to place arbitrary boundaries on this
> discussion. Can you be so sure that all life is physical and biological?

I think you have me wrong. I was talking about this particular
discussion-thread. Apart from my master-thesis, I am more interested in
the metaphysical part, but I still think most people following up this
thread is really discussing the biological part of that question. What I
tried (with my limited english) was to point out that I agreed that we
have to distingvish between the two perspectives of that question.

> > .......Computerprograms which definitly can hold a
> > lot of the characteristics which we find important about life, is
> > therefore not alive. Computerprograms live _inside_ physical matter,
> > they are not _built from it.
> I think this is rather limited thinking. Why must all life consist of
> 3D physical replicating machines? I see no reason at all why computer
> creatures evolved internally within a virtual world of a computer could
> not be alive. For all you know *we* all might just be an elaborate
> computer program running on 'God's computer!

I suppose you're refering to the brain-on-tank-problem of philosophy?
Then I partly agree with you, but I still think that the question of
what life is, is subjective and not objective (is there anything at all
truly objective?), of which follows that we have to _agree_ upon a
definition of life (which ofcourse can change by the times). The
building of physical matter as necessary for a living being is just a
proposal for what could be appealing to our intuition about this theme.

There is interesting to notice though, that if we are only brain in
tanks or programs in God's computer, it does not matter for the life we
think we live, as long as the rules does not change too much. The reason
I support this view is totally my believe that there is no such thing as
truly objective knowlegde. If you think my proposal is a limited form of
thinking and at the same time refering to the possibility of earth being
a program in some computer, I think I'm not wrong saying that you have
to state a truly objective definition of life (beyond human
consiousness), a sort of Platonian idea (may be wrong about you, sorry).

(And at this point we're really discussing the metaphysical perspective
of what life is. Maybe we're not able to come around it :-) )

Tom Kise (tomk at ifi.uio.no)
Casparisgt. 11 (http://www.ifi.uio.no/~tomk)
0174 OSLO (22 11 23 65)

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