Can Life Evolve Into Formless, Massless, Intelligent Energy?: (A Speculative Meditation)
This question: (Can life evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy?) comes from a forum topic, posted by a hubber called qwark six or seven months ago in the Education and Science forum. Pity the discussion didn't go very far, for some reason. But, it inspired me so I thought I'd take a crack at it. But first let me link you to the fine discussion qwark presented of it in a hub of his own.
Update Note (June 12, 2013): Unfortunately, it seems that that hub is no longer published. Too bad!
In trying to answer a highly speculative, theoretical, abstract question like this, I think it is helpful to always, always, always (did I mention 'always?') begin by making sure we understand the question. Just precisely are we being asked here. First of all: Can life evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy?
'Life,' all life itself, is a very broad category. Surely we don't have the space and time to consider all of life in this question -- not if we hope to proceed with any precision and clarity. You do want to proceed with precision and clarity, don't you? Good. I thought so.
Fine, let's say the question is: Can human beings evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy? Maybe another time we can consider if the same is so for salamanders, humpback whales, spotted owls, and chimpanzees. Or maybe not.
Now, in dealing with a question like this we must deal with (at least I think its helpful) the presupposition that is embedded within the question; and this embedded assumption often presents itself as another question that must be addressed -- but addressing this question can help you with the original inquiry. Whaaaaaat???
If the answer to our question (Can human beings evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy?) is no, then we are done.
But if our answer is to be yes... then we are obliged to ask: To what extent has this process proceeded already?
Evolution is such that it cannot begin out of nowhere. If we assume that we can evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy, this process must be identifiable in our developmental history as having occurred in two million years of our becoming us. That is, over that period of time we humans had to have been evolving in such a way that we were, in a sense, becoming less physical and more represented as 'intelligent energy.'
Can we make such an identification? We shall see.
By the way, what is the nature of this formless, massless, intelligent energy we might turn into?
We are not talking about the transmutation of the human form. We're talking about the stripping away of the human form, to reveal a greatly augmented pure enery-form that is the animating principle of our consciousness. I am no neuroscientist but I understand that the brain operates by the agency of electrical impulses that travel between neurons via synapses. So I would imagine the final form of humanity would be representations of crackling balls of electricity or something like that.
The body as it was
Okay, the issues is this. If it is possible for human beings to eventually evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy, (and this essay is assuming we can) then the process just can't come out of nowhere. It should be identifiable as having been ongoing in us. As you read this, we should be able to identify the way in which our body as it was has turned, and is functioning as, formless, massless, intelligent energy.
That's right! We shold be able to identify the way in which the body as it was, is replaced by some formless, massless, intelligent energy that we utilize everyday. The easiest example that comes to mind is tools, our conception, creation, and utilization of tools. Careful now! Its not the tools, but the idea of tools that represents the formless, massless, intelligent energy.
Let's back up a step. As you know, for those of you who subscribe to the notion of evolution, during the course of humanoid modification over the period of two million years, our bodies got smaller, less sturdy and durable. We lost our claws, fangs, thick hair covering, some of our previous muscle mass and physical strength. As we devised new ways to do physically demanding tasks and created tools, we learned to "work smarter not harder."
Suppose for some reason you had to drive a nail into a two by four plank. We won't say that your life depends on it, but that it is crucial that you do this. You need a hammer but one isn't available. But as we all know, one does not precisely need a hammer, per se. Any heavy, flat object with which you can perform the "hammering" function will do, a brick or something will do.
So, here, we are guided by the idea of a hammer not a hammer itself. What I'm saying is: if it can be said that human beings can evolve into formless, massless, intelligent energy, we must be able to identify this process as having occurred to a certain extent already; and if it can be said that the human body as it was, has indeed, to some degree, already converted into formless, massless, intelligent energy, then it did so in the way I have just described, I think.
The Dune Paradox
I'll just close with this. I wonder how many of you have read any of the Dune novels by the late Frank Herbert, or any of the prequels of written by his son Brian Herbert and his collaborator. In this world humanity is spread out over one million worlds. It is an empire ruled by a classical monarch. Humanity has changed a little bit, taken on new features, developed new characteristics, and developed new abilities. General health and competence is greatly enhanced by the agency of a substance known as spice ('The spice must flow').
One of these interesting groups of humans are called mentats. These are human beings who showed a tremendous capacity and potential for quantitative, analytical thinking, and mathematical computation. This is a capacity that can be exponentially augmented through proper, regimented training, until these groups of humans become literal walking computers. This is important because in the universe of Dune, there are no computers or "thinking machines" of any kind. They have been strictly prohibited.
There was a time when the thinking machines becames too sophisticated and too powerful, and indeed there had been a period when the thinking machines had virtually enslaved their original creators, human beings. There was a terrific interstellar struggle, in which human beings eventually won back control of their own destiny. But computers or "thinking machines" were out! They put their technology on a different basis.
Now what is interesting about this is the fact that even though human beings did away with computers, they still recognized the need for their capacity. They recognized the need for the computaional capacity of computers, even as society had banned "thinking machines."
Furthermore, there's a fascinating inside-outside-inside dynamic operative here. In the Dune universe as well as our own, computers started as an idea we had within ourselves; and in both the literary reality of Dune and our own, we then built computers, we externalized them, translated the ideas into objects in the physical world; and in the Dune universe (and possibly our own someday?) the computers have been reabsorbed into the internal landscape of the people.
So this raises an interesting question, for me, as to whether this inside-outside-inside dynamic is a new force in evolution or exclusively human evolution. I'll leave it there. I'll just link you to a couple of articles I found of interest.