Wednesday, February 22, 2006

BLDGBLOG: Unrecognized for what they are

BLDGBLOG: Unrecognized for what they are: "Even better is 'the intriguing idea' – mentioned above – 'that alien organisms may lurk all around us, unrecognised for what they are because they fail to respond to standard biochemical analysis' – or they're very bad at conversation. 'For example, there could be microbes that use RNA instead of DNA, or employ a different genetic code.'
There is even a chance 'that some viruses could be relics of ancient alternative forms of life.' Which blows me away it's so interesting! In other words, what we call an infection is actually an encounter with ancient life.
Living fossils inside wounds.
But my enthusiasm here is ultimately more inspired by the possibilities for landscape design, say, using gardens as a form of astrobiological research. It's not a garden, it's a laboratory; it's not your backyard, it's a kind of skin graft from an alien planet. Patches from elsewhere. J.G. Ballard's 'nightmare world of competing organic forms,' an 'insane Eden.'
One could even imagine a series of classified landscapes, grown by infrared in a cave beneath Los Alamos National Laboratory, incomprehensible genetic lines cultivated into a kind of aterrestrial Versailles. Fountains of amino acids washing slowly over alien flowers.
Weird topiary mazes made of symmetrical creeper vines from space. "

Are human beings equipped to recognise other forms of intelligence? I don't honestly believe so. With the difficulties in persuading mankind over the centuries that other forms of mammal life weren't mere "automata", as Descartes and his contemporaries had it, I have no faith in our ability to recognise more abstruse forms of intelligence. What of forms of life that simply aren't recognisable? Patterns that breed in radio waves, interferences of all sorts, whether they correspond to predictable rules or not, could be communications or the form of life themself. At what point do we (we not being children in science class who live by hard and fast arbitary rules established by those same scientists who believed non-human creatures were automata powered by "animal spirits"), at what point do we call a self-replicating, communicating thing alive? Except for our vague, indefinable claim of consciousness, how could we convince an outsider, an alien, that we behaved according to "intelligent action" and not simply a conbination of random factors and deterministic principles from our genes? What would qualify as convincing evidence of another race/individual's intelligence? I've a feeling that, for us, the latter would be along very narrow anthropic lines indeed...


grilly said...

i saw thinking about the universe too much yesterday, and realised that in those terms, there is no reason why artifacts could not be the more of the 'point' than organic life.

don't know where i'm going with this.

i miss you, dan.x

Grill said...


I'm not sure either - there's multiple interpretations of what you mean by both artifacts and 'point'. Especially as point (as meaning) is such a subjective thing - I don't hold with objective 'meanings' at all.

lots of love dovvy - miss you too!