Life’s Inventions

An Evolutionary View of Reality Construction

In the beginning, there was, by definition, Existence. Physics asserts that Existence contains mass and energy. We don’t fully understand either of these entities but we know that they are normally conserved except when they are being converted from one to the other.

Existence simply is what it is. Mass and energy may be artifacts of our understandings of space and time, so we should be cautious of saying anything about them except that they are features of Existence and that we believe they are neither created nor destroyed.

About 4.5 billion years ago the planet Earth coalesced as a very hot object orbiting an even hotter object, our Sun. “Hot” simply meant that the Earth’s ratio of energy to mass was higher then than it is today. The ratio steadily declined as the Earth’s energy moved to other parts of Existence while its mass stayed mostly together.

As the Earth cooled, its mass turned into various substances that we recognize today—mostly water and carbon dioxide gas. Smaller amounts of nitrogen, methane, ammonia, and sulfur also appeared. Out of this chemical stewpot, chance reactions produced the first components of Life.

Digital Reality (DR) theory finds that the history of Life included many crucial inventions, some of which were precursors to others. Here are eight in roughly the order they arose on planet Earth:

Digital Reality

Time, in DR theory, is not inherent in Existence. It is an environmental adaptation that supported the evolution of Life. “Survival of the fittest” became the goal of evolution, but survival can be defined only in terms of time. Life became a cumulative process that used time to reward successful organisms.

Digital Reality

Space is another of Life’s environmental adaptations. As with time, space became an attribute of temperature differentials. By recognizing and using natural temperature gradients—which are defined only spatially—living things could reliably harvest energy.

Digital Reality

Reproduction turned Life from an occasional aberration in Existence into a major presence on Earth. It probably started with budding or cloning, where constructions that managed to stay alive became large enough to become two constructions. But the real invention was the construction that ultimately evolved DNA. Instead of passing to the next generation just a piece of successful living tissue to be copied, it passed a set of digitally coded instructions for constructing new tissues.

The instructions had to be coded and interpreted in such a way that they would be executed in time order. Thus DNA evolved into a spatially ordered string of radicals, using one dimension of space to represent time. Besides introducing a time-space framework into Life, DNA established a digital basis for living construction. The consequences of that invention are explored in DR theory.

Digital Reality

Photosynthesis appeared after Life had become established on Earth, as a source of energy additional to finding terrestrial hot spots. It may have started as a species because chloroplasts have their own DNA. For a billion years or so, plants powered by photosynthesis were the dominant Life form on Earth. They broke down much of the carbon material in the atmosphere, covering the planet with organic compounds and filling the atmosphere with oxygen.

As a side effect photosynthesis evolved archaic space and time into our current Einsteinian space-time, where the vector of propagation of radiant energy is independent of the motion of energy receivers. This adaptation helped support radiant energy harvesting on the surface of our rotating, orbiting planet.

Digital Reality

Metabolism in various forms, with mitochondria having their own DNA, evolved as Life evolved. But our modern citric acid cycle, common to all aerobic organisms, emerged as a standard when photosynthesis had provisioned our planet with enough oxygen and carbon compounds to make metabolism a dominant source of energy for Life.

In effect, it reclaimed locally the radiant energy that plants had imported earlier from our Sun. Animals appeared, acquiring energy from grazing and predation and not from sunlight.

Digital Reality

Mobility appeared with animals as a major invention of Life. Once metabolism had empowered each living organism to store and carry its own energy, Life could spread into every corner of the planet, including the air. It was no longer constrained to being blown or washed by chance to a sunlit location. Herbivores migrated to seas and grasslands, carnivores preferred regions where they could prey on the herbivores and on each other.

Digital Reality

Intelligence evolved as animals became more numerous and more varied, probably as an adaptation to support predation. A smart predator could feed itself more efficiently by figuring out in advance how its prey was going to behave; and conversely, a smart prey could save itself by figuring out in advance the predator’s plan. Intelligence is not confined to individual organisms—whole species became intelligent and passed smart techniques down in their DNA. Among these techniques are communication, social behavior, and curiosity.

Digital Reality

The evolution of Ideals, most evident in Homo sapiens, is the latest invention of Life. DR theory uses axiomatic set theory to identify three disparate foundational sets in human knowledge: behavior, physical reality, and ideals. Each foundation creates new knowledge in the next set through the Zermelo-Fraenkel powerset axiom. Nonhuman Life evolves mainly through behavioral and physical change: humanity, however, has shifted its evolution mainly to ideal change. The tools for making this shift have been provided by intelligence—communication, abstraction, and organized faith. DR theory provides an analytical framework for understanding how these tools work. The observable results are human groups competing as fiercely as separate species do, but for ideological reasons, not merely for physical gains.

The primary reason for understanding the history sketched here is that every new living organism begins its span of life with DNA-coded knowledge evolved by earlier organisms. For example, although we humans think we are smart enough to transcend our origins, the ways we understand time and space were originally established in our DNA to support photosynthesis. To truly deal with Existence “as it is,” we need to understand ancient biases such as these and correct them in our ideal-based sciences going forward.

For an explanation of DR theory, see Thinking Like a Computer (Austin-Macauley Publishers 2020, ISBN 9781645759263).