Yet another weird SF fan


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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Does Life Require Borders?

Patri Friedmann on borders:

One of the things life has taught me this decade is the importance of exclusion and boundaries, which are highly relevant to this metaphor. A thermodynamic system with poor borders (less insulation), will have greater thermal conductivity. It may do more work initially, but it will also move at maximum speed towards that final resting state where all energy is evenly distributed. Such a state is peaceful in precisely the same way as death; for without flows of energy, there can be no life (in vivo or in silico – as no computation is possible). I suppose those who think human extinction is fair or just will consider this the state of ultimate fairness. I don’t particularly care for that final solution.

So if you even care about life existing – let alone the infinite diversity possible therein – then (contra Caplan), boundaries (such as national borders) are an absolute necessity. No differences, no energy flow, no (thermodynamic) work, no life. As in the stars, so on the earth: romance flows from polarity; trade from comparative advantage; thermodynamic work from heat differences; evolution from variation; economic competition from competing alternatives. All progress is driven by differences; so to erase differences is (counter-eponymously) to end progress.

Alexander Cairns-Smith on borders:
The control of the environment by primitive genes depended, not on the individual acts of individual genes, but on effects depending on millions and millions of copies of them. There was thus no need for anything as neat as a cell. If you are a gene very close to the ground, if your modes of preferential survival and propagation depend on deflecting somewhat, and to your advantage, processes that are going on in any case around you, there is no need to be so cordoned off. Indeed it is better not to be.
I won't more than mention that there aren't many border controls inside the U.S. but that doesn't make the U.S. homogeneous.

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