Wednesday, August 30, 2023

On 'life support systems'...........................

      Today, almost the entire capacity of the Earth's 'life-support system for humans' has been provided not for us but by us, using our ability to create new knowledge.  There are people in the Great Rift Valley today who live far more comfortably than early humans did, and in far greater numbers, through knowledge of things like tools, farming and hygiene.  The Earth did provide the raw materials for our survival—just as the sun has provided the energy, and supernovae provided the elements, and so on.  But a heap of raw materials is not the same thing as a life-support system.  It takes knowledge to convert the one into the other, and biological evolution never provided us with enough knowledge to survive, let alone thrive.  In this respect we differ from almost all other species.  They do have all the knowledge that they need, genetically encoded in their brains.  And that knowledge was indeed provided for them by evolution—and so on, in the relevant sense, 'by the biosphere.'  So their home environments do have the appearance of having been designed as life-support systems for them, albeit only in the desperately limited sense the I have described.  But the biosphere no more provides humans with a life-support system than it provides us with radio telescopes.

-David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World

No comments:

Post a Comment