Something is incredibly wrong with the enormity of violence on Earth. Every living organism is locked in a deadly battle over limited resources, and this has been going on ever since our distant unicellular ancestors competed for the limited nutrients generated by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. When some single-celled organisms evolved photosynthesis to ameliorate these constant shortages, the battle intensified into overt violence between plants and herbivores. Later, the violence escalated even further between the herbivores and the carnivores, and between multicellular organisms and their unicellular parasites. Even plants started to engage in chemical warfare. The problem is that Mother Nature tortures and kills her children, all in the name of “survival of the fittest.” With these evolutionary roots, we should not be surprised by the violence we see on the nightly news.
We should heal her. But how?
When K. Eric Drexler wrote Engines of Creation, he envisioned self-replicating molecular systems that could produce technical wonders for the price of dirt and sunshine, with near-immortality and billionaire standards of living thrown in. While he has not been proven scientifically wrong in his predictions, the path for showing how productive nanosystems can be built is unclear, even though many of the scientific discoveries necessary for them are being made daily in Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy, DNA Origami, STM/AFM probe tip single-molecule tools, macromolecular synthesis, bis-peptide design, and a host of other techniques. The end goal is to put every atom in its proper place. Together with the capabilities promised by mature versions of the indirectly replicating Rep-Rap and other 3D printers, we will remake the world.
- Imagine if we doubled the efficiency of photosynthesis, which is currently about 3-6%. This infusion of extra energy into the biosphere would double the carrying capacity of this planet for all species.
- Imagine if plants and animals could avoid the violence inherent in evolution by gestalt rationality–i.e. running simulations on cellular quantum biocomputers, and thereby determining an ideal set of characteristics for their progeny to thrive.
- Imagine if the K-Pg extinction event (along with the Chelyabinsk meteor) convinced us to have an adequate space program, and to spread our enhanced biosphere into new environments throughout the solar system. This Diaspora of Mother Earth’s children has the added advantage of keeping the current evolution-induced violence from becoming completely pointless. After all, whether or not we can upgrade Mother Nature, if we don’t get off this planet, our biosphere will get cooked when the sun starts its red phase.
These challenges present a host of very difficult technical problems, but the result would be a diversified riot of emergent species that would make the Cambrian explosion look like sponge sitting in a mason jar.
The fundamental problem of scarcity-induced violence is mathematical, and if we don’t heal it at that level, we will only fix symptoms. For Mother Earth 2.0 to succeed–i.e. for supply to continually exceed demand in a post-scarcity ecology–three conditions must hold true:
- Moore’s Law must continue forever (Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerated Returns shows that this is probably true–as long as information does not have mass).
- Evolution must be superseded by gestalt rationality; i.e. species must improve by designing offspring using a full and true understanding about reality, not by blindly hill-climbing a parametric design search space with many low-cost offspring. This is why airplanes fly faster or farther than birds, and carry heavier loads.
- Gestalt rationality must push r/K selection in the K direction–otherwise reproduction may outpace carrying capacity.
I might be all wrong in my vision of Mother Nature 2.0. But it is unlikely that we can solve human violence unless we also heal hers. My challenge is this: Exactly how am I wrong? And if I’m correct, how exactly do we accomplish it?