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Immortality through Replication

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The heavy hand of entropy prevents every material formation from existing forever, i.e. from immortality. Every arrangement of atoms will sooner or later be corrupted. However this process can be offset if there is a mechanism of replication, i.e. making an exact copy of molecular structures of a certain type. In the context of the trial and error, this may be seen as a form of stability. Replication and MST define the essence of biological evolution.

Suppose that replication of some formation takes lesser time than the formation's average lifespan. Then it will be not only stable, but much more than that. The number of such formations will grow exponentially as long as the necessary resources are available.

This is exactly what happens in biological evolution. In mitosis (cell division) the chromosomes of one cell are turned into two chromosomes which are physically identical between themselves and with the original. This happens both with one-cell amoeba, and with somatic cells of many-cell organisms.

Replication of biological structures can make them immortal. But how to understand the concept of immortality?

Amoeba A divided itself into amoebas B and C. Did A die? Apparently, yes. But its essence, the genetic material is identical to that in both B and C. Suppose B dies. This time one half of the genes goes away. But the full set of genes of A and B is still in C. Is the amoeba immortal?

Now think of the cells in many-cell human organisms. These cells may die and become replaced by similar cells worked out using replication, without being known to the master. If we make a complete copy B from person A, and kill A on the spot, did A die, or is he doing well as B? And what will you say if the copying of human individuals is imprecise?

We leave these questions unanswered.

Copyright© 1999 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

V. Turchin,

Jul 1, 1999


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