We aren't bacteria. Narratives concerning the rise of artificial intelligence often compare the resulting systems with today's humans. "To the advanced potential of these self improving AIs," they say, "humans would be viewed the same way we view bacteria."* No! This is completely missing the point. Today, we can see the direct connection between bacteria and mankind. We can envision the genetic line that stretches back through time's rank depths. We can relate, however tenuously, with both our ancestors and fellow species. We know what it is to see, taste, touch. To move. We exist, defined by these conditions. We can say, "I am alive, like that cat, and that bat, and even in a way with the bee and the tree." Of course, of course, there must be exclusion. "That rock," you say, "That rock is not alive!" And it isn't.

It's Called a Phase Transition

You know, water to ice. "Plain old matter" to Life. We see our connection to ancient ancestors and the relationships between all living things. We don't see the same connection to the rock. The phase change is from one state to another with very different properties. So we say that grubs and shrubs are life, that mold and fungus grow. Rocks, and air, and copper, and hydrogen and everything else is acted upon.

We are not bacteria to these gods, we are not relatives even in that minor sense. We are the ground, less, a brief substrate.


*this is of course referring to ancient bacteria, or bacteria-like creatures, single celled organisms in general. The idea being that we regard these bacteria as both distant ancestors and modern examples of simple anachronisms, far less powerful than ourselves. Cells are, of course, enormously complex. Human technological manipulation of chemicals may be impressive, but biological systems currently far surpass us.

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