For years, people have discussed and argued what life is and have tried to define it but have failed to do so.  It’s hard to define something so complex as life with a limited sample size of one planet as well as a finite amount of species that inhabit the planet.  Since there is no correct definition for life the possibilities of what life could be considered are endless.  With that being said, life has the potential to take a physical form or non-physical form.


A non physical form of life that could be considered is artificial intelligence, or AI.  With all of the advanced technology at our disposal humans are closer than ever to creating advanced forms of computer intelligence.  The thought of AI is very interesting because if we were to develop a system that was conscious, self-aware, and able to adapt and evolve than that could have the possibility to be considered life.  An example of this is perfectly described in the movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron.  There is one scene where Ultron, a computer system designed by Tony Stark, is brought to life and starts communicating with Tony Stark’s other computer system, Darvis.  Immediately, you notice that Ultron is both self-aware and conscious as he asks questions such as, ‘where am I?’ and ‘where is my body?’.  Ultron is also able to evolve as he digs through the internet and learns everything about everything in a matter of seconds.  As Ultron starts to understand his situation, he attacks and replaces Darvis since he sees him as a threat and wants to be superior.  Later on, Ultron realizes he needs to take physical form to so he hacks himself inside a mechanical body designed by Stark.  This is a perfect example of a computer system coming to life as he becomes self-aware, conscious and able to evolve, and eventually gets the idea to exterminate humans and other species since he sees them as inferior.


            Another example of an organism that doesn’t have a physical form but could be considered to be alive are the Calamarain, or known as Q.  The Calamarain are a species from Star Trek consisting of pure energy and no chemical matter (Benner 2010).  They consider themselves to be the highest form of evolution as they can teleport, time travel, and have the accessibility to instantaneous energy.  This is a very interesting idea in that a species is so evolved that is unable to evolve any further, live forever, take any physical form it wants, and has experienced everything.  This makes you think that what if there were beings like the Calamarain observing earth but doing so in that they are not able to be seen by species on earth. 


All in all, life doesn’t have any set definition and has the possibility to be considered anything.  As far as we know earth is the only planet that hosts ‘living’ organisms, and our ideas of what life could be are extremely limited.  With technology in AI improving everyday, humans could possibly create a living species without realizing it.  Until we find another species outside of earth we can’t define what life is, and even then our understanding may be a little fuzzy.

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Replies to This Discussion

This is a great question.  I agree with the idea that life is not limited to physical form.  If our definition of life is that it must have a self-replicating process and be able to evolve, then artificial intelligence could easily get to the point that it could be considered life.  It is also conceivable that life could be composed of pure energy, but I believe that is less likely with our current understanding.

I liked both sci-fi examples, but I think those sections could have been trimmed to give more room to discussing implications of creating AI life or other forms life might take.

I completely agree with you on the fact that life is a very complex scheme for people to define and the fact that we have failed to encompass what it really is. We do indeed live in a small planet that orbits in a small solar system in a relatively insignificant galaxy compared to the rest of the universe. Who are we to determine what "life" is?

I disagree with you on the fact that AI could improve to the point of possibly becoming a living species. Or maybe I misinterpreted what you meant. However, if AI could be considered a living organism I could make the claim that it would just be an extension of us humans, since we built the AI itself.  


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