I just read an interesting excerpt from Edward O Wilson’s book ‘The Future of Life’ over at James Media:

Environmentalism is something more central and vastly more important. Its essence has been defined by science in the following way. Earth, unlike the other solar planets, is not in physical equilibrium. It depends on its living shell to create the special conditions on which life is sustainable. The soil, water, and atmosphere of its surface have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to their present condition by the activity of the biosphere, a stupendously complex layer of living creatures whose activities are locked together in precise but tenuous global cycles of energy and transformed organic matter. The biosphere creates our special world anew every day, every minute, and holds it in a unique, shimmering physical disequilibrium. On that disequilibrium the human species is in total thrall. When we alter the biosphere in any direction, we move the environment away from the delicate dance of biology. When we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species, we degrade the greatest heritage this planet has to offer and thereby threaten our own existence.

I agree with this on many levels, but Wilson and many other environmentalists are missing a much larger picture and more holistic perspective- The human species with all our technology and pollution is a part of nature.

Wilson then goes on to say,

We must forget our urge to colonize space, to expand technologically. We must get back to nature.

Dr. Wilson is working within a false dichotomy. We are a part of nature, and nature is a part of us. We are inextricably one and the same. Our inexorable drive to expand and explore is what life itself has always done. Life has never once settled into complete homeostasis. There has always been a small segment of it mutating, evolving, growing, expanding, filling new niches, creating new habitats. Without intelligence the biopshere will eventually die in a billion years from the Suns lethal radiation output. But evolved intelligent life expanding beyond the womb planet does have a chance of living indefinitely. Intelligent life, like us, have the ability to expand life off the womb planet and out into the cosmos, enabling it to escape the eventual heat death of it’s parent star. In the meantime, the biosphere is plugging along nicely, despite our civilization. Yes, we are seeing massive species extinction. This is not the first time, but at least the fifth time this has happened, and the biosphere has survived all of them.

I’m with people like Timothy LearyRobery Anton Wilson Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan on this one. I think whats really happening is the Biosphere (aka Gaia) is giving birth, and we are part of this birth. The children of the biosphere are about to leave the womb planet and spread out into the universe. And this isn’t just plain old life, but intelligent life, complex life, beyond anything a mere bacterium or even domesticated primates like ourselves can imagine at the moment.

There was an old debate raging in the circles of the transhumanists circles a few years – Gaians vs Extropians. Like then, and now these two philosophies are not mutually exclusive. We are seeing the beginnings of biotechnics, regnerative technologies, clean energy and tools of radical abundance like nanotechnology, that will enable the human species to continue evolving while simultaneously repairing and regenerating mother earth.

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To The Biosphere and Back Again

February 14th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on To The Biosphere and Back Again)

I went to visit my old stomping grounds in Tucson last week and had a chance to visit the Biosphere 2 project again. My first trip there was back in 1987 before they broke ground on the actual biosphere. For the first time they are starting to letting people go inside to take a peek. My wife and I went into both the savannah and desert regions. Here are a couple of photos we took while in the ocean and rain forest sections.

biosphere02

biosphere01As a physics student at the University of Arizona, I had friends who were directly involved with the Biosphere 2 project back in its infancy. The magic and excitement around the project at that time was intense. I went there several times in 1987, years before they began actual construction of the biosphere complex itself. During that time there were the opulently designed and furnished administrative “ranch” houses, some hyper-modern research labs with some smaller closed-biosphere experiments, as well as a very large greenhouse, where they were accumulating plant/tree species from around the world. In 1987 it was like stepping into the future. As a space settlement advocate and L5 Society member the chance to see this project take shape up and close and personal was exhilarating.

Many people say the project was a total failure – but I could not disagree more strongly. Sure mistakes were made, but isn’t that the whole purpose of an experiment, to see what happens, and adjust accordingly? An enormous amount of knowledge was gained in the so-called “failures” of the first Biosphere project, and our knowledge of both small-scale closed biospherics and the large one that surrounds the earth has increased considerably as a direct result of this project. Columbia University is currently running the project.

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Biosphere

March 11th, 1997 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Biosphere)

There are many notions about what biotechnics might be – everything from creating Closed Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS’s) such as Biosphere 2 or a fully self-sufficient Space Colony, to more earth-based applications like using native biological processes to accomplish something better than some man-made top-down system.

Scientific and technological trends indicate that our transhuman and post-human futures are becoming more biological, not less:

earthnet1) Our biosphere is the most complex system in the known universe, a product of self-organization and natural selection. Although we haven’t found any others yet, I suspect our universe contains an unlimited number of complex systems equaling or exceeding our own. See the noosphere section for why I think so.

2) Facilitated in large part by a global nervous system called the Internet, our technological and industrial systems are increasingly resembling those of the biosphere. If the biosphere can recycle everything, why can’t we? In order to increase efficiency and reduce costs, industry has been relying on more recycled materials and waste products from other sectors. This burgeoning field known as Industrial Ecology or Industrial Symbiosis is ushering in an entirely new way of doing business – one that is based as much on cooperation as competition. One only has to look at the world of microorganisms to see the tremendous versatility full-cycle systems are capable of.

3) The latest computer hardware and software are also increasingly resembling the biological realm. There is steady progress in developing protein memories, DNA computers and bio-luminescent displays. Software engineers are increasingly incorporating biological metaphors into the creation of more efficient and robust programs. The latest anti-virus programs utilize pseudo-immunological processes that evolve new defenses in response to the latest computer viruses. Below is a an artifical life program running as a java applet. Move your cursor over them and they will try to follow it.

4) Human and some cetacean brains appear the most complex components of Earths biosphere, making them the most densely complexified structures known. Extensive research has revealed that our individual neurons are themselves quite complex, with a plethora of neurotransmitter activity within the syanptic clefts. Pundits have been telling us for years that the future of intelligence lies in silicon, yet silicon’s limits are already being reached. Instead, we’re on the verge of seeing computer architecture transcend the limits of silicon by adopting the more versatile element of its creator, carbon.

dna5) Carbon’s covalent bond structure allows for a greater number of molecular combinations than any other element, maximizing it’s role as a building block for complexity. Discoveries made from biochemistry and nanotechnological research has spectactularly confirmed this. Carbon in the form of diamond, and now surpassed by its fullerene companions, are the hardest, strongest, and most versatile materials known. Its amazing how a single element arranged in one way can be soft and brittle (graphite), and in another extremely strong. Nanotubes as they are now known, are sure to become the building blocks of ultra-minuturized computational machinery and large-scale mega-engineering projects. If there is other molecular-based life in this universe, chances are carbon plays a crucial role. In our quest for building better brains, the underlying hardware will increasingly resemble our wetware and ultimately surpass it – eliminating any previous difference between computer and neural architecture. The implications of such computer-brain symbiosis are startling, because we essentially become conscious software, gaining the ability to fully reprogram oursleves while freely running on increasingly superior hardware. Imagine for starters perfect recall of all knowledge and archived experience, fully customizable reality mediation and creation, complete empathy/telepathy with others, and the ability to choose exactly what state of mind and mood you’re in. Imagine states of ecstatic bliss becoming the norm in which further experience and exploration is pursued. A place where love is realized, not for any moral correctness, but as the most rational choice available. Please see The Hedonistic Imperative for a great treatise on this subject, and stay tuned for what is sure to become the central theme of this site.

None of these developments should comes as a surprise. Life has been experimenting with form and function for nearly 4 billion years. We as a species are only now becoming sufficiently advanced to apply the process to our own needs. From this, we surmise that future technology will becoming more life-like than anything before it. Along with this, our biosphere will reproduce through us, releasing spores throughout the galaxy (see Gaia Sporing). This may be re-assuring for those who thought the future would consist of some mish-mash of metallic robots and super-industrial machinery. I’m optimistic that life in the future will increasingly become more fun, free, and alive than anything we’ve experienced. With the Earth as our womb, and the stars and immortality as our birthright, the biological revolution and its more advanced stage nanotechnology are about to take us on a ride. Are you ready? 🙂

exobio
 

[This page originally appeared on my first web site – Planet P – archived here]

Links and Related Sites:

Artifical Life
Autonomous Agents – Stuart Kauffman
Biocomputation
Bioneering
Boids
Brain-Computer Interfacing
Complexity Online
Extra Solar Visions
Extropy Institute
Gaia Nation
Gaia Sporing
The Hedonistic Imperative
Immortality Systems
Industrial Ecology
Nanotechnology
Organic ArtWorks
Tierra

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