Re:The difference between a human and a rock

From: Eric Hawthorne <>
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 00:03:11 -0700

How does a human differ in kind from a rock?

-Well both are well modelled as being "slow processes" (i.e. localized
states and events) in spacetime.
- A process is a particular kind of "pattern of organization" of some
subregion of spacetime.
- We share being made of similar kinds of matter particles that stay
close to each other in spacetime for
some finite time period, and some finite spatial extent.

Oh, but you said "how do we differ?"

Well, a human roganism is a sub-unit of a longer-lived "species" pattern
within an "organic emergent system eco-system"
A rock does not appear to have that much complexity of form and
autopoietic function.

A rock is one of those kind of local spacetime patterns or systems that
"doesn't have much choice about how it is."
The laws of physics, and the nature of the rock's components and the
thermodynamics of its vicinity are such that it
pretty much collects into how it's going to be at some time, then is
physically constrained to stay just that way,
at macro scales anyhow, for a long period of time. Of course, being a
big physical process pattern subject to
the laws of thermodynamics, it is, actually, changing, and usually
dissipating (disorganizing), just very, very slowly.

A human organism pattern is existing at a thermodynamic range
internally, and in a thermodynamic regime in its
environment, that allows for more "options". for how (and e.g. where) to
be (over short time scales.) Interestingly,
this makes for the presence of all kinds of other similar organic
patterns with options, and interesting behaviours
(like eating you for dinner, or infecting you and eating your cell
structure.) In other words, this thermodynamic
regime, and the particular kinds of atoms and chemical bonds in
ecosystems, make for active competition for
which should be the dominant pattern of organization of matter and
energy in the vicinity. i.e. You can't always
just be a rock, because there might be a creature with a hammer wanting
to break you down into cement.
Or you can't live for ever, as an organism, because something else wants
to re-pattern your matter and energy;
that is, the matter and energy your pattern has competed successfully to
borrow for its form for a while.

Clear as oozing primordial subterranean sulphur-vent mud?

Ok but here's the interesting part of the story. Because there are
"options for how to be i.e. how to hold together"
at our organic ecosystem thermodynamic regime, there is
"pattern-competition" for who is the most auto-poietic
(i.e. what forms of matter and energy collection can hold together best,
at the expense of others).

And it turns out that life-like ecosystem patterns, species patterns,
and organism patterns win out for a time,
precisely because their main function is autopoiesis, and they
eventually, through natural selection, get very
good at it.

And it may turn out that the way you survive best as a pattern in
spacetime, assuming you have a certain
thermodynamic range to work with, is to store inside yourself
INFORMATION about "that which is
outside yourself and nearby. i.e. about your environment. In otherwords,
pattern, if you want to live, get
out there and start RE-PRESENTING aspects of your environment WITHIN
YOURSELF (in some
partly abstract form within some aspect of your own form.)
Eventually, if you do that, simple representation
of your environment. "Ouch that hurt. I'm going to flail the other way
outa here." or
"hmmm, my complex molecules like the smell and molecular fit of YOUR
complex molecules"
 will give way to complex representation within the organism of its
environment, and complex action plans
to be carried out to protect the organism (and its kin's) pattern from
nastier aspects of the environment.
So we get "Hmmm. I think that guy and his army is out to get me and
mine." "I think I will pre-emptively
strike on that other guy's country because he vaguely looks like the
first guy." Ok, bad example.
or you get "Hmmm. What an intelligent (accurate
environment-representer), capable (effective environment
modifier and pacifier), and beautiful (pattern-form-average-conformant)
woman she is. I'll ask her to marry me.

Or something like that.

And that's the major difference between humans and rocks. Our
thermodynamic regime necessitates that
we navigate options for our existence/non-existence as stable patterns
by representing informationally, then
navigating and affecting, our surrounding space, time, matter, and
energy forms.


Hal Ruhl wrote:

> Hi Stephen:
> Observers:
> In this venue dances interact and change each other discontinuously by
> mutual collision or by exchanging smaller dances.
> How then does a human differ in kind from a rock? Should we expect
> them to differ in kind?
> Yours
> Hal
Received on Sat Apr 17 2004 - 03:47:48 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:09 PST