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  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#71: The Biological Singularity Is Near pt. 1

(11/22/2023) We have clearly reached the end of this phase of human civilization. Does that mean that evolution's broad trend towards increasing complexity, scale, and self-awareness is also dying? Many futures are possible, and in this episode, we speculate about one that continues the evolution of ever greater complexity. Exiting the fantasy of a “sustainable” extraction-based economy, we instead imagine a human society based solely on life itself, where organisms do what is now done with gas-fired kilns, table saws, and circuit boards. We examine the diversity of the metabolisms which are currently evolving in synthetic biology laboratories, and how a novel organism might alternate between photosynthesizing and devouring toxic waste in the process of, for instance, growing into a house. Careful to delineate near-term possibility from developments which would require a scientific (and likely social) revolution, we look from the strange world of self-healing buildings and robots animated by heart cells which we currently inhabit to a much stranger one, in which houses walk and computing is biological. This episode largely focuses on establishing a realm of possibility, saving more conceptual and ethical issues for its sequel, where we ask: what it would be like to adopt an ethic in which life existed for its own sake, but in which humanity actively intervened in life to promote its maximum abundance, diversity, and evolutionary potential?

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