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A scenario of artificial intelligence could see the emergence of circumstances in which models of simple organisms could be capable of experiencing the various phases of life in a controlled virtual environment. This is what has been designed by the QUTIS research group at the UPV/EHU’s Department of Physical Chemistry, but the scenario is that of quantum computers: an artificial life protocol that encodes quantum behaviors belonging to living systems.

The models of organism designed were coined as units of quantum life, each one of which is made up of two qubits that act as genotype and phenotype, respectively, and where the genotype contains the information that describes the type of living unit, and this information is transmitted from generation to generation. By contrast, the phenotype, the characteristics displayed by individuals, are determined by genetic information as well as by the interaction of the individuals themselves with the environment.

To be able to regard the systems as organisms of artificial life, the basic characteristics of Darwinian evolution that were simulated by these systems were birth and its evolution, self-replication, interaction between individuals and the environment, which gradually degrades the phenotype of the individual as it ages and ends in a state representing death. The protocol also considered interaction between individuals as well as mutations, which were implemented in random rotations of individual qubits. (1)

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Darwin and his garden. Socrates and Athens. Einstein at a desk.

Every time one reads such a description of how science managed to emulate something so fundamental as “life” or “death”, he must be very skeptical. For even the slightest hint of science understanding the core elements of our existence must be faced with nothing less than hard laughter.

Scientists playing around with what they do not know.

So many words.

So much effort.

Meaningless.

Do you believe you are your life?

Do you believe you are your death?

You are more than the sum of your cells.

You are more than the atoms that consist you.

As time passes by, we can see that the main promise of the Enlightenment for a better world cannot be kept. The world is not full of light, it is full of terror and death. The world is not more ethical, it is instead colder and more soulless. The world is not understood better. It is now hidden behind a dark veil of ‘knowledge’. A veil which disguises the dark secret we all try to keep from ourselves: That our ‘understanding’ destroys the cosmos we are in.

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Technology works! Science works! Well, NOT QUITE... (Technology and Science do NOT work!)

How can you have an ethical cosmos by calculating data?

How can you have a better world by analyzing theories?

The basis of living good is first of all… the “living” part.

And science has by default given up on this from the time it made the “data” and the “theories” its main goal. Life cannot be lived in theory. Advise cannot be given based just on hard cold data. You cannot know the earth, without making your hands dirty. You cannot touch the stars without crying upon the touch of a loved one.

We have forgotten that science is a verb, not a noun. (as this article here reminded us)

Science in the example above is not the emulation. But the process of trying to understand, feel and touch the very essence of our existence. Science is not the ridiculous idea that you can emulate life with a set of rules. Nor the childish notion of random mutations generating useful original information which can lead to order instead of random chaos. Science is the deep passionate believe that we can somehow reach the truth regarding our self.

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Periodic Table of Elements

Look at that butterfly.

It has come back for you.

To remind you something you once knew.

That the science you believe in is not inside the lab.

That the only thing algorithms can emulate are themselves.

That true scientists are only the ones who are not.

Science will soon realize that it is useless.

Only when it reaches a point where it is really useful.

At some point everything will be successfully emulated.

Including the emulation of life itself.

Which in turn emulates life.

Only to result in the emulation of itself.

And inside an infinite set of turtles.

To keep on searching for that super turtle.

Gradually realizing…

That there was no turtle to find in the first place.

Except the one we started emulating…