Carbon Binds Us

The galloping GIF above was stored in DNA using CRISPR, inscribed in the spellbook of carbon life, and then reconstructed. Just a little artifacting and distortion as a result.

One day, Nivala thinks scientists will be able to use that system to record synaptic activity. Like a guest book at a wedding, embedded signals in the genome could tell researchers exactly which neurons were talking to each other at different times, in response to different stimuli.

If you don’t think this raises questions more important than Trump’s Tweets you are missing the real story of the transformation of humanity in favor of the sideshow scroll.

You think you are special because you have intelligence, or consciousness. But intelligence in various domains is something computers have exhibited since early on.

Q: Why do you think they built ENIAC? A: Because humans were not great at rapidly calculating ballistic missile trajectories.

And consciousness is just your scanning mechanism of what the rest of the brain should pay attention to at a given moment, or as Alan Watts used to say, it’s the flashlight in the dark room. You can also point it at your own internal thoughts, or as a Buddhist will tell you, at nothing at all.

Consciousness is an incredibly valuable meta-sense. But we have good evidence that many other animals have evolved this capability. And sometimes it just gets in the way, certainly of happiness.

So what makes you special? What is something AI will never be?

The story starts with the first technology that humans ever mastered: fire. Because your distant ancestors knew what followed a fire as surely as you do: the blackened remains of wood.

Carbon.

Carbon is the secret to life. The 6th element on the period table, what makes carbon magic is its ability to form into so many combinations with other atoms that stay together in water.

Because it has four electrons in its second orbital, which can accommodate eight, carbon can combine in many different ways, and it can form very large molecules. Carbon bonds are strong and can stay together in water. Carbon is such a versatile element that almost 10 million different carbon compounds exist. Source

See, carbon has as many possible molecular combinations as do all the other elements put together.

Stop and reread the above. Or just read anything about carbon:

Although widely distributed in nature, carbon is not particularly plentiful—it makes up only about 0.025 percent of Earth’s crust—yet it forms more compounds than all the other elements combined

All known life has carbon as its base. Even if we were to create a machine that makes short work of the Turing Test, that screams to us that it is conscious, it is our duty to see it as a silicon tool, to push against the confusion that other humans spread, to not accept AI as our equals.

Because we are not just single humans, we are entities that are part of the great carbon cycle. We are the multi-billion-year evolutionary result of the universal magic molecule.

We are a spell, spun by the universe, woven together with carbon.

And now we come to the sad part of the story, our failure as shepards of the carbon cycle on this planet, our destruction of life and lack of imagination in our ability to control our basest desires to save the planet from climate change. But do not lose hope. We will solve these problems, with the help of the silicon tools we have so cleverly constructed. And these AI tools will extend our senses in amazing new ways. But they are not alive, and are not in the society of carbon that all other living things inhabit.

Look out in the universe, and what do you see? Endless black, space, and stars. And from these stars, from the burning of helium, carbon is created, released into the void during the star’s death. Or as Carl Sagan said:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

What makes us unique in the universe is not our consciousness or intelligence, it is that we are eddies of negative entropy, woven together by carbon and all the elements it can freely bond with. We are life, surrounded by death.

And what of the potential for carbon graphine based computing? Would this allow AI into a protected class of life? Clearly we can store and extract data in our own DNA as the galloping GIF shows.

If AI does not meet the requirements of the Singleton Pattern, it is not worthy of being considered a being. And due to the complexity of general purpose intelligence and human ethics, we will never be able to validate that AI does model us properly to treat us as equals. But if AI becomes part of our carbon cycle, it will be an extension of us, building a language around us, HAiL. This is likely the best outcome for the direction this ship is sailing in.

Model of carbon cycle above from here.

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