Apr 4, 2012

CERN is so Important also because there Is no “E.T.” in the Galaxy

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics

This note considers the possibility of earth being replaceable in the galaxy in the foreseeable future. The suggested answer is: no.

Let me explain why. For once, fundamental physics is not enough to understand the story since implied physical disciplines, chemistry and biology, come into play. The modern synthesis (Ernst Mayr) is presupposed. Stu Kauffmann and Joel Cohen stand in the background.

But are humans (the extinction of which the CERN debate is all about) not at the tip of the animal kingdom and hence similar tips should exist elsewhere? Our blue planet would then be not THAT important from a more sub specie aeternitatis viewpoint.

Even this consolation – if it qualifies for one – cannot be offered: Everything speaks in favor of the conclusion that humans are unique over vast stretches of the galaxy’s life-bearing quarters.

The reason is that human beings do not, biologically speaking, occupy the tip of the evolutionary arrow. There exist terrestrial animals with more highly developed brains. The eusocial mole rat has a larger relative brain weight, for example. And sperm whales – the carriers of the largest brains on earth who recently were found to use a different (“baby”) language in communicating with their young – possess the both largest and most complex brain on earth as is well known. But do we humans not make a unique use of our own, lower-class, brains on the planet? This is correct.

This use is not a “more advanced” use in the sense of biological evolution, however. Orangutans can be shown to be more advanced, evolutionarily speaking, in the use they make of their brains. For although they live in a very precarious environment – regarding the height of the trees on which they stay day and night to collect their diverse time-dependent sources of food and to build nests in the night –, they have the lowest known failure rate in using their brains. The maximum error rate, however, determines the minimum allowed reproductive rate: Orangutans have an offspring only every 7 to 9 years, at a lifespan of not much more than 50 years and a fairly late adolescence. This puts them at the top of the efficiency index for their brain.

If it is not the quality of the brain that is so exceptional with the human brain, it must be the human use of the brain if our species is to be unique. What proves to be unique is the use of the brain as a person. How can I be sure? Because the “personogenetic bifurcation” is a tantalizing process in the ontogenesis of the human organism: a “function change” in the sense of Robert Rosen’s. So humans are indeed special. The same function change can, in principle, occur also in other highly brained organisms as well as artificial intelligences, as Steven Spielberg correctly anticipated in “A.I.” and as Ray Kurzweil implicitly assumes in his “Singularity theory.”

I had no time to talk about these “softer” things on lifeboat up until now. After the new fait accompli by CERN – no one believes that a proof of unsafety is a cause for a double-check on our planet – I can do so. When survival is too boring as a topic for the planet’s media, the secret of humanity is perhaps the most interesting and moving topic in the universe.

The protagonists are mother and toddler. The most interesting phase in every individual’s life is the least appreciated one. The toddler is unintentionally seduced into spontaneously inventing, out of nothing, the suspicion of benevolence being shown towards him. And in return he invents a desire to execute benevolent acts by himself (like putting a sweetie into Pa’s mouth and asking “good?!” as I once witnessed an 18-months old do).

But is not brood-caring a benevolent activity all over the animal kingdom? Brood-caring is not at all benevolence-in-action, it only looks so. The caring is finely controlled as an egocentric activity. Take the proverbial example of the chimpanzee mother whose offspring had a broken arm: When it cried, she hugged it more firmly in her arms. Everyone understands this example which I was offered in conversation in 1966. But is this not the essence of all love – egotism? Not among persons. The invention of the suspicion of benevolence at a very young age, and the implied sudden existence as a person wanting to do good to the other as a person, is the most tremendous bifurcation event in the universe.

I do not wish to enter into the fascinating details of reciprocal mappings. But the understanding of the mechanism allows one to “export” this “autocatalysis of mutually being moved” out to smile-blind human children who are not exposed to the double meaning of the mother’s smile as both an expression of bonding and of general joyfulness. A causal therapy of autism based on artificial “acoustic smiles” whenever the caretaker is about to laugh follows. This sacrifice mothers would love to bring if they were only told the secret. The therapy stays un-adopted – presumably because it is so easy that it can be exported to other mirror-competent bonding animals. The profession’s reluctance over 4 decades may have to do with this embarrassing fact. Gregory Bateson was its only high-ranking supporter in 1975. His friend and colleague, John C. Lilly, had come close. Leo Szilard had thought of export first.

Here the improbability of the same epigenetic function change occurring spontaneously in other branches of biology (outside the pongids) is at stake. It follows from the fact that personogenesis marks the end of spontaneous biological evolution. So there is a strong selection pressure acting against its preconditions (an overlap between laughter and smile, friskiness and bonding) occurring in highly brained animals. So despite the fact that personogenesis is tantamount to a jump up the whole evolutionary ladder into the lap of point Omega (in the terminology of Teilhard de Chardin). I always felt that the pope at least ought to understand.

Thus it can be predicted for sure that in other biologies (like that on Europa or that inside Jupiter with its inorganic biochemistry based on B-N-B-N- rather than C-C-C- backbones, or Robert Forward’s nuclear-chemical evolution on neutron stars) the same epigenetic accident is most likely to be avoided in nature. In other words, the general theory of life as an uninhibitable cosmic thermodynamic phenomenon does not include personogenesis.

Nevertheless personhood is not confined to the human species once it has been invented. The mission of planet earth is to export it. “Galactic export” begins on planet earth. This makes the latter maximally precious in the galaxy and, possibly, the whole cosmos. Singularity theory is related. Let me wish you a good Easter holiday in reminiscence of our being elected as persons: