We will be following our normal protocol of posting Dr. Armstrong's words in italics and any annotations we use in regular font with color.
I am using active chemistries that actually respond to the environment in real time in a way that is living. I will show these to you rather than keep telling you how life-like they are. So they do actually exhibit the characteristics of living systems. This is an oil droplet, in slightly alkaline water.
Life was formerly regarded as a phenomenon entirely separated from the other phenomena of Nature, and even up to the present time Science has proved wholly unable to give a definition of Life; evolution, nutrition, sensibility, growth, organization, none of these, not even the faculty of reproduction, is the exclusive appanage of life. Stephane Leduc
For me, this was my epiphany, I saw it as being a literal and a figurative form of birth. This is a different kind of technology to machines. This is inherently complex. You cannot reduce this down into its components. There is an oil droplet. There is alkaline. There is water. Three ingredients, but they're not components. You cannot reduce those down into their parts. And yet, this is undergoing incredible complex phenomenology. This is able to move around its environment. It can sense it. It can move around to an alkali stimulus and is able to shed a skin. If that isn't a kind of amniotic picture there... Anyway, that's my human projection into this literal birthing of this droplet-based technology which I see as being an inherent complex type of technology. It is completely different from the way that we experience machines.
...I think one of the most incredible characteristics about this particular system is that it starts to challenge some of the things that we have presupposed about biology in a conventional biological context, given that since the middle of the last century, we have put the DNA right at the heart of identity, of intention, of everything that is important about being alive.
Of course, once you have a model from which you can start to examine how technology could engage differently with the world, then you can start to imagine and speculate upon it. This is a slightly different arrangement, you can create lots of species of this oil and water droplets. What you're seeing here is a alkaline field with an actual water droplet. The reason for doing this is that these move more slowly through the resistant oil so that you actually get these skin-like structures that are repeatedly shed. You can see here that the chemical energy that the droplet is using exists at the oil-water interface. There's no membrane here. It's not two-sided. This isn't an interior. It's literally, an interface that is wrapped up into a sphere, as the pressure of the water molecule tries to expand into the oil droplet.
We include a short video which demonstrates this movement of forming protocell turbulence which appears life-like. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/VJm6bFvRvBk.
You can see that they do things that you would associate with life-like processes. So there was fusion that just happened there. You can see the building of quite complex structures. In this case, there's a suggestion of a helical structure here on the right. What I think one of the most incredible characteristics about this particular system is that it starts to challenge some of the things that we have presupposed about biology in a conventional biological context, given that since the middle of the last century, we have put the DNA right at the heart of identity, of intention, of everything that is important about being alive.
Another video showing the amazing interactions between two of these oil droplets. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/09p9orvtFLY.
Here you can see that this DNAeless entity is going from a free-swimming droplet to a now growing a short stubby tale. This purely the result of a metabolism. The alkali and the droplet is reacting to the environment to create a set of crystals, a salt-like state of crystals, that then create drag, a set of physical forces on this droplet. Not only do you see a change in shape, but you see a change in the form of locomotion simultaneously. You're not waiting for point mutation to happen here. You're not waiting for it to have a genetic mutation and then suddenly evolves eyes. You can now see that this entity is crawling along the bottom of the petri dish where only seconds ago, it was free swimming. Thus, you can see almost peristaltic-like ways of activity that this agent has then it has a different kind of physicality, in this particular environment. It is exquisitely sensitive to its environment. It goes through very rapidly-turning trajectories in order to optimize its chemical energetic state. Very intriguingly, anthropomorphically and anthropocentrically appear to be very social. This is my favorite movie of all time. I get very excited about this.
We include a fuller explanation of Dr. Armstrong's work with the green algae Bryopsis. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/tzsDutxxDLw.
We have a colony oil and water droplets existing in the center field here. That's the home team. They're sympathetically building very similar micro structures. They're about .1 millimeter big. The away team is just happening there on the edge of the screen. You see two members of the away team coming to check out the home team. Now watch what happens next. Remember, there is no DNA or programming in this system. There is a complete transition that takes place here. Not only do they change their shape, not only do they change their movement, but they also act synchronistically. There is something happening at the population scale that has not been monitored in computers before. So something is happening at the material level, in a complex system, which we would probably describe as a form of emergence and that gives rise to these life-like properties that are not alive, because technically our definitions of life necessitate a form of information molecule, a DNA or an RNA or some kind of a nucleic acid-based code that is creating the intention for life-like organization of these systems.
What you can see in this section of the footage, is a chemical death. What happens is that when you occlude the interface, when you occlude the possibility of energetic exchange between the systems and you get an incasing of the crystals along the interface, this stops the energetic exchange, they literally become inert materials. I included this because there is a lot of homology between its chemical structures and biological systems, like all these microbial roses.
Just in case there are some who are not aware of the plight of Venice, we post this video. If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:
|Venice during the aqua alta|
|Venice protocell rescue visualized|
protected by protocells
|Venice protocell rescue|
The idea is that these technologies being from a practice of biology, as you do have systems of control but they're persuasive forms of control. They're engaged ways of looking at manipulating matter, very human centered and responsive to environments. So the biggest threats to these oil droplets would probably be a shoal of hungry sardines. It would just eat up the droplets and probably find them very nutritious.
We will finish this transcription of this lecture in the final segment in this series.