Successful Seeding


As I just argued, if the Earth was seeded with single-celled organisms that were rationally designed, we can safely assume the cells were designed in such a way that the chances for a successful seeding were enhanced. We can safely assume this because beings intelligent enough to design a cell that front-loads evolution would design cells that were likely take root on the ancient Earth.

A strategy that I proposed would be using a hetergenous consortium of cells that were connected by a deeper unity. I outlined my logic in that introductory posting, but let me add to it.

Imagine that we wanted to seed the planet Mars with life and we had only one shot at it. How could we maximize our chance of success?

If we were to design life forms and use them to seed a planet, we face a problem – we are introducing life forms that have not been adapted to the environment of the planet. We can design them as best we can, but the fact remains that the life forms would not be the product of an evolutionary history of adaptation shaped to fit the Martian environment. The life forms would always be, even if only in a minor way, alien to the environment. Thus any designer must take this into account. The solution to this lack of a perfect fit would seem obvious. Design the life forms so that they can adapt to the alien environment as quickly as possible. Design it such that it will persist instead of going extinct. This task becomes especially important if we are involved in front-loading, where we want our designs-for-the-future to remain intact until they are ready to be used. If our life forms cannot adapt quickly, we risk some of them dying, and with them, some of our designs.

To help us envision what is needed to accelerate this ability to adapt, now imagine we needed to successfully colonize the planet Mars and again, we have only one shot at it. To maximize the success of our colonization of Mars, we should send several different teams, each with a colonization strategy that has a different emphasis. Each team might have the same basic tools and supplies, but each one would be designed with its own specialization. This way if a particular strategy or specialization does not work, we have others already in place that could still work. To further increase the chances of a successful colonization, the members of each team should also contain a population of people who are more than specialists who excel at their particular strategy. We would want a certain intellectual type that is able to think quickly “on his feet.” We would want a core set of MacGyver’s [1], people who are resourceful and flexible. Finally, we wouldn’t want the different teams to be completely isolated from each other. On the contrary, it is vital that the teams should be able to communicate with each other. Thus, if one team learns a novel way to adapt, it can communicate it to the others. Or, if one team’s specialization turns out to be especially useful, it could attempt to communicate this. In other words, cross-talk is part of a good design plan. The cross-talk also puts a constraint on the diversity, as the ability to communicate, along with the ability to incorporate different strategies, depends on an underlying unity.

Returning to our thesis of seeding a planet, we merely take the design themes of diversity within unity, flexibility, and communication and embed them within the nanotech devices we call bacteria. These themes would all contribute to the biological property known as evolvability, where we increase the odds that they can successfully adapt to their new alien home. This capacity to successfully evolve simply means that organisms have the intrinsic ability to generate the type of variants that are also more likely to be useful for the blind watchmaker.

1. From the 1980s ABC television series; see – http://www.tv.com/macgyver/show/706/summary.html

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