silicon-based life

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pages: 298 words: 81,200

Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson


Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning

But silicon lacks carbon’s unique versatility, its ability to form the double and triple bonds that create the long chains and rings of fatty acids and sugars. Silicon also requires far more energy to form bonds than carbon does. Tellingly, the earth contains over a hundred times as much silicon as it does carbon, and yet Mother Nature decided to base life on the much rarer element. Silicon-based life may be impossible for one other reason: silicon bonds readily dissolve in water. Most theories of life’s origin depend on H20 not merely because hydrogen and oxygen are important elements in many organic compounds, but also because the environment of liquid water facilitated the early “chemistry experiments” that led to the emergence of life.

William Schopf, entitled Life’s Origin; Philip Ball’s imaginative “biography” of water, Life’s Matrix; and Carl Zimmer’s Science essay “Evolutionary Roots: On the Origin of Life on Earth.” The original Miller-Urey experiment was published in Science in the essay “A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions.” Silicon-based life appears in multiple science fictions, including Stanley Weinbaum’s A Martian Odyssey and in the form of the Horta, a silicon-based creature discovered in episode 26 of the original Star Trek series. Chris Langton’s theories about the generative power of liquid networks are developed in his essay “Life at the Edge of Chaos.”


pages: 299 words: 99,080

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder


carbon-based life, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Mason jar, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, post-industrial society, silicon-based life

Maybe in promoting the metaphorical relationship between people and machines, cybernetics tended to cheapen and corrupt human perceptions of human intelligence. Or perhaps this science promised to advance the intelligence of people as well as of machines and to imbue the species with a new, exciting power. "Silicon-based life would have a lot of advantages over carbon- based life," a young engineer told me once. He said he believed in a time when the machines would "take over." He snapped his fingers and said, "Just like that." He seemed immensely pleased with that thought. To me, though, the prospects for truly intelligent computers looked comfortably dim.


pages: 476 words: 132,042

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly


Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller,, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, charter city, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, computer vision, Danny Hillis, dematerialisation, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping,, Exxon Valdez, George Gilder, gravity well, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John Conway, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, life extension, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, out of africa, performance metric, personalized medicine, phenotype, Picturephone, planetary scale, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, refrigerator car, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, Skype, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Kaczynski, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

And when silicon is oxidized, its respiratory output is a mineral precipitate, rather than the gaslike carbon dioxide. That makes it hard to dissipate. A silicon creature would exhale gritty grains of sand. Basically, silicon produces dry life. Without a liquid matrix it’s hard to imagine how complex molecules are transported around to interact. Perhaps silicon-based life inhabits a fiery world and the silicates are molten. Or perhaps the matrix is very cold liquid ammonia. But unlike ice, which floats and insulates the unfrozen liquid, frozen ammonia sinks, allowing the oceans to freeze whole. These concerns are not hypothetical but are based on experiments to produce alternatives to carbon-based life.


pages: 420 words: 143,881

The Blind Watchmaker; Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins


epigenetics, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Menlo Park, pattern recognition, phenotype, random walk, silicon-based life, Steven Pinker

Will he go into detail and reconstruct DNA as a plausible early replicator, victim of electronic usurpation? And will he be far-sighted enough to guess that even DNA may itself have been a usurper of yet more remote and primitive replicators, crystals of inorganic silicates? If he is of a poetic turn of mind, will he even see a kind of justice in the eventual return to silicon-based life, with DNA no more than an interlude, albeit one that lasted longer than three aeons? That is science fiction, and it probably sounds far-fetched. That doesn’t matter. Of more immediate moment is that Cairns-Smith’s own theory, and indeed all other theories of the origin of life, may sound far-fetched to you and hard to believe.


pages: 798 words: 240,182

The Transhumanist Reader by Max More, Natasha Vita-More


23andMe, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, data acquisition, discovery of DNA, Drosophila,, experimental subject, Extropian, fault tolerance, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, friendly AI, game design, germ theory of disease, hypertext link, impulse control, index fund, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, P = NP, pattern recognition, phenotype, positional goods, prediction markets, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, silicon-based life, Singularitarianism, stem cell, stochastic process, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, the built environment, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce

In this process, human presence becomes virtualized and the individual self is distributed, space becomes virtualized and place becomes distributed. Moreover, there is inherent in all the research which currently surrounds the sciences of mind, advanced AI, AL, molecular engineering, robotics, and complex systems, the potential for consciousness to evolve beyond the human organism, and to a degree which perhaps only silicon-based life could accommodate, in “entities as complex as ourselves, and eventually into something transcending everything we know – in whom we can take pride when they refer to themselves as our descendants” (Moravec 1988). Art in the twenty-first century may come to constitute a form of mediation between human and post-human consciousness, just as in past cultures it has been used to mediate between mankind and the gods.