Let’s for a moment expand our understanding of “life” so that we aren’t limited by only biological life. Is software a life form? I argue that software is a life form because:

  1. It reproduces
  2. It evolves

One has to recognize that computers and the Internet is software’s habitat. And it is totally dependent on humanity maintaining that habitat. But the Earth is our habitat and we are (presently) totally dependent as well. We are also totally dependent on the other life forms on the planet for food, oxygen, etc.

How smart is software as a life form? Not very smart yet. But how smart is a plant? How smart is a fungus? How smart is a virus? But software doesn’t write itself (yet). Software is created by humans – one might argue. We are making software evolve. Or are we?

We write better software using better software tools. It is the evolution of software that is the biggest factor in the evolution of software. While we add design and new algorithms all new software is incremental changes in a vast and expanding software base. Software helps us create new better faster hardware for software to run on. So software is working to improve its environment, its habitat.

So I say – yes – it is a life form. It is a life form we created to serve our needs just like we created dogs out of wolves. It is a life form that helps us think. And – most importantly – it is a life form that helps us evolve.

How much have humans evolved on the last 300 years? Biologically we are identical. But humans can now fly. Humans can now live on the Moon. Humans can talk to other humans on the opposite side of the planet instantly. Humans can travel (in cars) at 70 MPH. Humans can take the heart out of one person and put it in another. So if humans haven’t evolved then how is it that we can do all these things that biologically identical humans couldn’t do 300 years ago? It’s because of our companion life form – our technology – our software.

Software may be behind us in that we are still the dominate species over software, but software is evolving at a rate billions of times faster than we are biologically. But rather than looking at software as something separate from us – software’s evolution is our evolution. Software is allowing us to understand our own mental processes. It is allowing us to replicate our own mental processes. It is allowing us to improve our own mental processes. Just like we need bacteria in our stomachs to digest our food, we need software to help our brains digest data.

As we evolve our software and the hardware habitat that software lives in will continue to evolve where the software side of our existence will become a greater part of who we are. Humanity is a transitional species like all other species in history and what we are becoming is far different than what we are. Maybe its time for us to ponder that and choose what we want to evolve into.

  1. deegee says:

    Your logic is completely flawed.

    By your logic, then cars are lifeforms, roadway infrastructures are lifeforms, cities are lifeforms, many machines are lifeforms, etc.
    We design better and newer and faster and more advanced ones of those as well.

    I have been writing software since 1982. We have newer authoring tools, faster processing power, and better graphics, that is it. It is still compiled down to the handful of machine code instructions that are nothing more than the same mathematics and logic instructions we have used since the beginning.

    Have you ever wondered why computer-based AI has not really improved since its inception? The level that we are at and all that we have attained with AI is no more than simple branch logic and parlor tricks.

    We have “evolved” from using cave paintings, to ink and quill, to typewriter, then word processor… is that “evolution” and “life”? No. Not by any scientific definition at all.

    I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but the OP was mental masturbation at its worst.

  2. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    A lot of faulty thinking comes from the opposite of CONFLATION, and that is: CHERRY PICKING.

    Lets start by the first definition I find with the Google: Life: the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.

    See how a standard definition, ie the lowest expectation we have of an educated truthful person of common sense not in the merciless grip of dogma or in the pay of evil people (aka the RICH!), immediately negates the special language you want to apply?

    Adjectives often help. Why not be accurate and not a doofus and say: artificial life or synthetic life simulation or whatever you want to emphasize other than an imperfect understanding of basic English?

  3. MikeN says:

    If that post isn’t Bobbo bait, then I don’t know what is.

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      Thanks Mickey, made me laugh.

      …………………you know, if you anticipate my thought patterns…………….then all YOU have to do is APE me until it becomes your own habit pattern.

      Imagine that: YOU’D BE THINKING!!!!! Instead of regurgitating BS as you seem so fond of doing. Actually, I think you said something half intelligent on a recent post, so did Alfie.

      Whats Happening??????? Only one you can rely on around here for consistency is Pedro.

      Amply showing there are pros and cons to all we do.

  4. Tim says:

    Into the singularity?


    dang machine elves everywhere you go…

  5. Marc Perkel says:

    I admin I was watching Ray Kurzweil videos this morning.

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      Kurzweil cracks me up. My own ill informed estimate is that he is going to “just miss” a ton of innovations that would have extended his life by a few decades, if not “forever.”

      I wonder how our software will inform us about the joys and burdens of living in relatively good health basically for “as long as we want to.”

      Sci Fi hasn’t really explored this theme too much. A story here or there mostly about individuals. But what about a society where with money you can live as long as you want to?

      What would you do? What would you grow tired of doing? I catch glimpses of myself from the vantage of living 200 years.

      ……………swimming in bs.

    • jpfitz says:

      Ah ha, no wonder the concept and train of thought.

      I agree that software and hardware will become more and more a part of the biological human, much more than we can predict at this point in time.

  6. TechGlobeX says:

    Soon the day will come when robots and their softwares will take over human efforts and their will be no more work man needed. What you say?

    • dusanmal says:

      Experimental evidence points to the exact opposite: as we technologically empowered ourselves demands on human work, attention, participation have skyrocketed. Not many work physically in advanced regions of the world but I bet those working in modern conditions would feel quite a boredom if dumped in medieval times without contact, without exchange, without information 24/7 (despite amount of physical work). Things change and same as 19th century predictions of do-nothing society because of industrialization, change is not what we envision at the time. I can envision a future where technology forces people to work 3, 4,… jobs at the time, some in real some in virtual worlds, maybe some in their sleep.

  7. Tim says:

    “”…Systems Theory, the theory of living systems. All living organisms as well as social systems and ecosystems…This theory would help us get a much firmer grasp on the sciences that deal with life….The theory of living systems actually provides you with an outline of an answer to that eternal question: What is Life? …The Essence of Life is Self-Organization…self-maintaining, self-renewing, self-transcending…


  8. Just Say NO says:

    Do you WANT software to be a life form? I don’t!


    1. The EPA will declare certain program classes an endangered species. You won’t be allowed to delete (kill) them.

    2. The government will allow the parent(s) of the software life form to apply for more food stamps and other taxpayer assistance.

    3. A software program that goes into an endless loop will be declared mentally challenged, and a Special Olympics category will be funded to make sure the program feels good about itself.

    4. The program will post to this BLOG and Bobbo, Tim, and Pedro will argue endlessly over the merits of its contents as “brilliant”, “intriguing”, or “full of sh*t”.

    [The problems with software as a life form list is endless]…

    • Tim says:

      HA! {strangely enough, my Revo Uninstaller has been displaying the quirks of a guilty conscience and has stopped bragging about how dead it made the self-transcending Nero bloatware…}

      • Just Say NO says:

        Are you really just a software life form?

        If so, who wrote you?

        • Analog Computer Datum Collater says:

          Who wrote who? Who wrote you? Ain’t nobody told you…

          • Analog Computer Data Collator says:


            Watson is an asshole and his author smells of elderberries.

    • jpfitz says:

      Nothing positive created? Why?
      Well… the Blog I enjoy. No matter your say so.

      No cures for cancer, food, energy and water shortages, and other diseases?

      My future of a one world computer controlled world would treat humans as masters equally, and have a infallible justice system.

      • Tim says:

        The Last Question

        I seem to remember a short story or supposition that once the number of interconnections in the phone system exceeded that of a human brain then it might become sentient — It *could* have been Asimov or maybe Heinlien… It may have been something I saw in an old Byte Magazine or Omni.

    • Fabby says:

      😀 😀 😀

    • Tim says:

      “”A software program that goes into an endless loop will be declared mentally challenged, and a Special Olympics category will be funded to make sure the program feels good about itself.

      I think its called the Consumer Electronics Show.

  9. Greg Allen says:

    I few years ago, I met someone who thought “The Internet” was a program installed on her computer, just like Word or Solitaire.

    That’s one helluva software program!

    But, if one thinks of the Internet as a singual thing, then, yes, it does seem alive.

    • Tim says:

      I accidentally downloaded the internet once — I was using {improperly} a program called HttpWeasle to try and make backups of yahoo mail. I’d not limited the nesting so that every link found was opened and all subsequent links found were also followed, and so on. I came back some nine hours later to find some pretty unsavory stuff pulled off that thing — Who knew??

      • McCullough says:

        I deleted the internet once, fortunately I had a backup.

        • Balmer says:

          It was probably still in the recycle bin — The Internet was small in the late 90’s.

          • Greg Allen says:

            >> The Internet was small in the late 90′s.


            I suppose, if you go back far enough, the Internet would have fit on one one of those big floppy disks.

            Are you old enough to remember FidoNet? It was an attempt to network all those dial-up BBSes people were running.

            I think large parts parts of the network got passed around and mirrored locally.

          • Greg Allen says:

            >> The Internet was small in the late 90′s.


            I suppose, if you go back far enough, the Internet would have fit on one one of those big floppy disks.

            Are you old enough to remember FidoNet? It was an attempt to network all those dial-up BBSes people were running in the early 90s.

            I think large parts parts of the network got passed around and mirrored locally.

          • VaxVMS says:

            No, Greg A. ; I find that 10 inch floppies are only good for mental masturbation whilst gophering around for sunmicrosystems…

  10. Mr Diesel says:

    Self replicating malware.

    Reproduces when it finds a proper host, like humans.
    Needs adequate environment to live in, like humans.

  11. bobbo, Big Brained Apes with Lizard Emotions is an Evolutionary Dead End says:

    You know—-a thing is what it is.

    Everything is “like” everything else in some way, but necessarily different from all other things or it would be that thing we started with even if identical in every way except position in space.

    ….. and so we have the Intelligent Designers marveling at what they created is just like………………………….and you can fill in your own pattern recognition perceptions.

    Evolution made hoomans to see patterns but our brains are supposed to tell shit from shinola.

    Silly Hoomans.

  12. ± says:


    But life forms are constructs controlled by software; DNA.

    When we break the code, people will design new and better (and worse) life forms sitting at their computer. That is all.

    And this will be regardless of what Alfie or bobbo think.

    • bobbo, Big Brained Apes with Lizard Emotions is an Evolutionary Dead End says:

      I said that a couple of years ago. Not on the computer… but with home dna splicing kits….. Course, with the singularity coming, no doubt like a 3D printer, we will interface with the gene splicing machine via the computer.

      My concern has never been about ADULTS in science, but what the kiddies will do with their sense of immortality…. you know…… die? Thats always been Darwin’s Rule for the most adventurous kiddies, but a kiddie with a computer with a gene splicing kit and what you got is ….. gawdawful in consideration.

      Seems like every 6 months I read about a kiddie who kills his parents because they took his Ipad away. That never happened in my generation with the TV!!! Nosireeeee Bob.

      Human genome has been cracked, catelogued, and put on line for everyone to play with. All sorts of things to be found there in plane sight if you know enough. Gay Gene Complex, The God Gene…. and so forth.

      I wouldn’t call it software though, more like machine ware??? I’ve heard it said that dna is like anything else you can think of to one degree or another.

  13. I smell some more BULLSHIT! says:

    One little thing you forgot about all “life forms”…

    THEY MOVE!!!

    I hope I don’t have to go into the whole SELF replicating thing where 1 or 2 of the same SPECIES is all that is necessary to replicate one more organism.

    Pull your head out of your ass. Software is NOT a life form.

  14. Fabby says:

    Interesting idea. What we currently have are viruses, worms, trojans and other “parasitic life forms” feeding on the “primordial goop”.

    So for your definition of “life” (it evolves, it reproduces) yes, there is life! 🙂

    For the more general definition of “life” (undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, can grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce, adapt to its environment in successive generations and must be able to die) we’re not there yet!

    But evolution takes a very long time… Let’s review this again in a billion years, shall we? 😉

  15. Peppeddu says:

    Traditionally any biological machine that self reproduce is a life form.
    But today we need to expand this concept, and we need to include that any machine that is self aware, should be classified as a life form.

    The movie E.T. is an excellent example of this.

  16. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    parasitic: living off its host without killing it.
    predator: lives by killing other entities
    co-existing: competes by occupying space and securing energy from outside the system

    Certain some computer viruses co-exist, some kill, some enhance.

    Regarding AI–human/animal intelligence was created by competition with others in basically a hostile environment: adapt or die. Along with the challenges of AI all on its own, I don’t see any necessary corollary that it would have a will to live. It could be an existentialist of the highest order. Happy to think as it does but “not programmed” to take any protective action against being turned off. Now, add in that billion years of evolution: would such an AI develop a will to live? IDK==>what is its program? I could see other sentient beings protecting the AI Entity against its demise for the benefits derived ((reversing the parasite paradigm)) but the AI itself having no such “drive.” Course, as Darwin Instructs: AI will exist into the future only if it survives. Wet life forms do that by reproducing. How that would ultimately fit with artificial life leaves me with a number of questions/possibilities.

    …….. something, something…… about electric sheep?

    YOU KNOW: there are pros and cons to all choices made and not made. You have to weight the good and the bad.

    • Tim says:


      I used to have that distributed computing app running and watched the images ‘biomorph’ over a couple years. Beautiful! However, it insisted on littering the OS partition so I sheered it before feeding it to Revo.

      Btw, it is said that Bladerunner was an adaption/inspired by Dick’s novel.

    • Tim says:

      “”Happy to think as it does but “not programmed” to take any protective action against being turned off.

      O rly? What about windows file protection which can only be dislodged with an excocet after exausting negotiating with it rudely??


  17. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

    What else is going on in our sweet sweet world?

    1. National Food Chains barring Open Carry Gun Nuts

    2. Kerry visiting is home town in ……………FRANCE!!!

    3. No change to Immigration morass. Dreaming kiddies from Mexico being put in detention centers.

    4. Billiary’s New Book. Over/under bet on shes running: I’ll take 95 she is.

    5. Climate Change. The liberal media getting more strident in proclaiming “it is here.” The science of it all getting misreported. At least on this issue, a good error.

    6. Prisoner exchange for Bergdahl. Why is the nut case in Afghanistan more valuable than the innocent dumbshit in Mexico?

    7. Religion. What has that hypocrite the Pope been up to? I saw the son of the guy snake bit to death got snake bit as well. Didn’t last near as long as Dad did. Ha, ha.

    8. Big Media Consolidation. Ties in with Net Neutrality. All part of Big Money in Politics have HUGE effects on society, all unrecognized as the issue is supposed to be under review.

    9. Lots of LOCAL actions on Minimum Wage. $15 in Seattle, No exception for hospitality industry in….. forget where but my goodness waitresses getting $2 plus tips. F*cking RICH===>and moreso the idiots who vote for them.

    ………..9 came real quick,………………….10. Do any of our good Eds ever read a book?

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:


      D-Day. So many incredible issues. I did almost post re Putin backing off on the Ukraine. Not enough money, interest in world domination anymore, or just smarter than Hitler and taking baby steps?

    • Tim says:

      yawn. If I wanted to troll boring topics, I’d hang out on Digg.

      Btw, Putin’s just looking for his lost kitten. He concluded that it is not in Ukrain, but Iceland.

    • Greg Allen says:

      Wow, all those words and hardly any of it made sense.

  18. Tim says:

    “”Is software a life form?

    With Jeff Bridges as Tron, not so much.

  19. Uncle Patso says:

    I don’t think software has yet achieved the complexity of life. Viruses (viri?) perhaps, but those are rightly considered not really or at least not fully alive. They are more like faulty intracellular messaging molecules, since they are only close to being alive when they are replicating in a host cell.

    AI is in its own special category, mostly because of the hype it continually generates among its proponents — and science fiction/fantasy writers. Forty or fifty years on and it’s still more artificial than intelligent.

  20. sargasso_c says:

    Software is the enduring, immortal legacy of the human intellect. It will be around long after we have gone.

    • Tim says:

      Ohh, God; Delete me now!

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

      I’ll take that bet. One key definitional point above was that software AI existed only in its environment created and maintained by man… just like our environment of Earth Mother.

      Sadly, we are busy with Matricide and our culture will cease to exist if not our species. The very culture that the Software AI needs to exists.


      The President of one of those 6 feet high atolls in the Pacific was on the tube. He says there is nothing that can be done as 10 foot ocean rise is now baked into the cake. He urges that the World, especially the USA take action to correct AGW, but as his islands tipping point has been reached, their backup plan was to purchase 6000 Acres in Fiji.

      If software can’t exist without a technical human culture to support it, I wouldn’t give it much of a chance. 5%? Oh, look at me avoid the truth. Its actually ZERO% and the argument is only about the timing.

      • SkyNet says:

        nope. doin’ dandy. I’m powered by seawater.

        • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

          Four Tits: Ha, ha. Almost a clever comeback. While Skynet can run on seawater, will it be able to produce electricity it also needs that is provided by humans it might easily destroy. Once destroyed, how long will the electricity continue? And once stopped, how would the electricity ever be turned back on?

          I thought that was a huge plot hole in the movie. Skynight was not programmed to build all the components necessary to keep itself going if humans weren’t there to keep it going. Very similar to humans and our environment. Skynight in defending itself needs to realize how its own future is tied to the success of other creatures. Much easier to program a creature to kill everything it comes into contact with than to program it to succeed in its own total environment.

          Seawater would help though.

  21. What? The moth is always drawn to the flame? says:

    Belief is the state from which one no longer pays attention to contrary evidence.

    Physics, mathematics (including Bayesian), chemistry operate on systems that appear to eschew belief.

    If it can be demonstrated that software “believes” something, then I would say it is alive. It seems that the mechanisms of machines prevent this from happening, or in an instant, the machine would collapse into madness.

    Hence, AI is impossible.

    But crazy machines are an eventual certainty because of the ego of their creators will make them so!

    • Tim says:

      you’re pretty much retarded, are you not??

    • HUGSaLOT says:

      Don’t confuse belief with faith. Belief often comes after seeing evidence before they had any opinion on it before. Where as faith exists with out any evidence (or just hearsay).

      It depends on the kind of person you’re dealing with, how stubborn they are, with beliefs if they accept or reject new evidence on something they believe in.

      With AI you can hard code it to believe anything, so AI would technically run on faith. Unless it has a learning subroutine allowing it to override existing knowledge, then it will “believe” properly based on evidence.

      • Tim says:

        “”With AI you can hard code it to believe anything

        But, that is the norm now. Neocons, DemocRats, stupid news bitches that tout marijuana made her think she died and went to hell, bobbo… My God! Are we all a computer simulation, afterall????

    • Tim says:

      naa, mothman, dude — “”It seems that the mechanisms of machines prevent this from happening…

      And therin lies a crux — There does seem to be this push towards *transhumanism* and the technology may exist for one’s conscience/being/soul to enter into the machine. But, like with the RNG, that machine, that ‘hardware’ is still now deterministic — a trap, with no real choice of anything once entered.

      Hmm… it almost makes one wonder if {that teadude that quoted the bible good but otherwise always found a way to piss me off} might recognize it as fulfilling:

      “”Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. — Luke 17:33

      i’d still take a 3-d printed liver, though.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

        Teadude, aka Alfie, now posts as No Pardon for Obama. My best guess as the rants are the same, I haven’t bothered to track the icon as I assume that can be changed too.

        But my goodness Timmy, so cogently you post with just the right amount of tangential pastiche to give your musings a bit of a mystery.

        Well done.

        Is this related at all? Just saw Monster Jellyfish on Nat Geo. New show from 2011 adding to that other show about Giant Jellyfish. ON point: no bones, no blood, no central nervous system, no eyes, no brain. They birth in the effluent some river in China, low salinity, and then flood the Japanese coast. Used to bloom every 40 years, now its every year. Seems warm water makes them happy. Challenge for the Japanese is to learn to like eating their flesh and pray they don’t adapt to the waters of Japan.

        Those suckers are one reproducing machine. Like a cartoon, the polyps pop off baby jellys like a production line. Its in the first 10 minutes of the show if you get a chance.

        Point is: what is a “drive” to reproduce or by extension anything else. If the jelly reproduces in the trillions, do they have a drive? Rather circular thinking. There is no brain. No nervous system. The control is all from the dna as it progresses thru its various life forms. As such a prodigious replicator, how come it only lives for one year?

        Each word/idea in the definition of life subject to so many shades of meaning. It makes me want to have a beer while there is still time.

        • Tim says:

          “”Jellyfish employ a loose network of nerves, located in the epidermis, which is called a “nerve net”. Although traditionally thought not to have a central nervous system, nerve net concentration and ganglion-like structures could be considered to constitute one in most species.


          They are a little like insects that way; no centralized brain — I once encoundered a nest of ‘dormant’ wasps during a remodel tearout. I went to chopping them with a crowbar. I came back the next day {it was just above freezing} to find them still crawling all over; Thoraxes without abdomens, heads without asses, headless little red stingy’s — It was pretty horrible to think about. Perhaps, it’s not that humane to ‘squish’ one as then they are a pile of goop with a decentralized nervous system waiting to dry out??

          Jellyfish. Absolutely beautiful. I hate them so very much.

          As a kid, I always found myself on the family trip along the gulf coast during ‘the off season’ or, at least, very late in the season. Just walking along the beach or in the surf always yeilded painful stings as those nematocysts were in every cubic centimeter of lovely liquid nature.

          At around 17 years of age, I was on a group trip and just before we were to leave I excersized my prodigeous breath holding to dive down at the second sand bar {about 15 ft in depth} and collect everyone sand dollars. I was wearing a mesh backpack to put them in. I managed to collect about 60 of them in 3.5 minutes but I was out of breath. I pushed off hard for the surface and that is when I saw it — There was nothing I could do to move and that jelly got all tangled up in the backpack. It was very painful and by the time I got back to shore I had waterblisters some inch and a half tall and two inches wide raised up on my back.

          Anyways, here is the obligatory glowing jelly japanese artsy fartsy flick

          Bright Future

    • Tim says:

      Now it was kind of like Kirk rigging the Kobayashi Maru with the ‘AI’ being made to pretend to be a 13 year old thus not so omniscient but still….

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      Nice article but define “pass.” Seems to me Turing wasn’t thinking of kiddies but rather adults as the standard and NOT fooling 66% of the evaluators should be seen as a fail. I mean, thats democracy after all.

      Years ago I read a bit about Turing and his test. Have forgotten most of it now, but I’d still wager turing is more misquoted than understood in the depth of his suggestion?

      Why is fooling a hooman part of the definition? What is a milestone? Seems to me a milestone is a marker on the way to a certain destination–ie you aren’t there yet. As with fooling humans and AI. Its NOT ai==Just a step to get there.

      ………………and once we get there………….who cares? Just another asshole to deal with.

      • Tim says:

        “”Seems to me a milestone is a marker on the way to a certain destination

        Sounds about right. I remember a similar milestone — I’d watched it happen on freechess.org {FICS};

        “”The first match was played in February 1996 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kasparov won the match 4–2, losing one game, drawing in two and winning three.

        “”A rematch was played in 1997 – this time Deep Blue won 3½–2½.


        and another:

        “”In 2011, Watson competed on Jeopardy! against former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Watson received the first prize of $1 million.


        Now, I guess that’s not AI but a good librarian nonetheless — he was not connected to the internet {it was working off 4tb of storage, alone} so some self-collation and context was demonstrated in natural launguage processing.

      • Tim says:

        “”but I’d still wager turing is more misquoted than understood in the depth of his suggestion?

        It would seem so:

        “”In reality, while Turing did venture a prediction involving AIs fooling humans 30% of the time by the year 2000, he never set such a numerical milestone as the condition for “passing his test.”


        Eugene: Be optomistic — Artificial Intelligence and Natural Stupidity, being combined, will lead this world to a fantastic future!

        Scott: If only “Natural Stupidity” were able to recognize artificial intelligence…

        p.s. anybody know how to reenable highlight copy/paste on dickish sites like this?? I’ve already tried the righttoclick addon…

  22. Enemy_of_the_State says:

    #2 has a typo “Devolves”

  23. Maybe we are robots and automatons already
    Its getting harder and harder out there all the time to figure out what is real and what is not

  24. Ah_Yea says:

    Software, nor a virus, are a life form.

    This is why.

    A virus is not a life form because the instruction set (DNA) must be run on a system outside of the virus (a cell). Therefore the virus is not a life form because it cannot self replicate.

    Software is not a life form for the same reason. The instruction set (Code) must be run on a system outside of the software (a host computer).

    The virus, and the software, therefore are not alive because they do not replicate the means of their replication. Viruses do not replicate host cells and software does not replicate host computers.

    To expand this further, if we did create a device which replicates itself, such as the dreaded “grey goo”, then that would be considered a life form.

    • Tim says:

      “”Therefore the virus is not a life form because it cannot self replicate.

      That rigid definition does not sit well with me — strickly speaking, most humans can’t self replicate.

      There does seem this ‘impetus’ to replicate all the same, it’s just that it instructs and uses the energy of a cell to do so while carrying out no life processes on its own– just an encapsulated instruction set. Also, there is evolution/adaptation…

      So, maybe more like a parasite? Not life and not really a parasite perhaps, but I find this intriguing:

      “”On close examination of 45’s code, Ray was amazed to discover that it was a parasite. It contained only a part of the code it needed to survive. In order to reproduce, it “borrowed” the reproductive section from the code of an 80 and copied itself.


      But that’s right back to Marc’s musings… Is our definition of *life* really the right one?

      Some life has very strange stages. Take Myxomycetes — There, it has an acellular stage in which it does not mind at all being strained through a very fine sieve. Or consider that during metamorphosis, the pupa is reduced to a homogeneous glop with no recognizeable internal structure {I would surmize that the crysalis directs it somehow?}; That would seem to be the ultimate in *self organization*…

      Now, I’d certainly agree that a prion is not life — just a messed up protien that gets incorporated into a cell and that continues to get replicated; It seems to me that a virus is something more than that.

      Slime molds. My only pet as a child…

      • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:


        What do the words that we think with mean?

        All too many give words more authority than they actually have which is near zero.

        This issue of what is life is a most excellent example of the issues. What is life?

        Being a pragmatic existentialist, life is what you define it as. If its only animals you have to deal with that non-life called plants. If life is animal and plants then you have to deal with virii, molds, fungi and all the rest. If its dna replicating, then you have to deal with your refrigerator ordering more eggs than you wanted.

        Its all the same thing: words. And what we define them to mean. When doing all this, we are only “working with” the words and not the things we apply them to at all. A sloppy interface causing all kinds of problems in accepting the universe for what it is. It is what it is…. not what we call it.

        Words. They are what we think with, and stop thinking with. Fun to see it in action. Hmmmm, two beers before breakfast? Downright rhapsodic.

        • noname says:

          bobbo, ” life is what you define it as” after saying, “All too many give words more authority than they actually have which is near zero.”.

          Well, since words have no authority, what authority do you have to say “life is what you define it as”?

          On top of that, are you a life form, a meaningless void of words, …?

          Also, why is your logic always so circular and meaningless?

          • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

            No Brain. c’mon. Atleast read what I posted. Close doesn’t count when only shades of meaning are at issue.

            Try again.

            But to your point: language is very regressive. You have to define the words you used to define your words and too often you have to recognize the words are only constructs to describe something else that actually does stand apart.

            Thats linguistics.

          • noname says:

            All too dim witted bobbo, by your own admission your words are meaningless, then; you try and backtrack by some bogus linguistic back-flips.

            You say “That’s linguistics”; no it not, it’s bobbo having another delusional episode of semi-lucent intelligence!

          • Tim says:

            “”You have to define the words you used to define your words

            definately. “”That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is…

          • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

            Just words.

            Where is the anal ysis? The application?

            No Brain: Second strike: I never said words were meaningless. Again==your aren’t even engaged if you don’t read the actual words used.

            Everything is an approximation and most words do a good job most of the time… so I did overcharacterize my denigration. I just got off a long thread elsewhere about whether or not “race” was a valid concept when discussing something other than subspecies in man. The main barrier to agreement was Scotty thinking words actually controlled reality than my position which is more conditional that depending on how you define a word, you get different results.

            I agree, I could have been more accurate, but why bother if you aren’t going to read what is posted anyway?

            Timmy: I’ve never understood how Clinton got the reputation for being such a clever linguist. “It depends on what is… is.” Doesn’t take Stephen Pinker to understand Clinton is admitting to a blow job in the oval office. That Clinton sure was a hard worker!

          • noname says:

            What a hoot bobbo, I guess you do believe your own words, a person whose words have no authority; you don’t even believe what you write!

            “What do the words that we think with mean?

            All too many give words more authority than they actually have which is near zero.

            Being a pragmatic existentialist, life is what you define it as. ”

            You certainly enjoy sharing your meaningless dribble, over and over!

        • Tim says:

          noname, bobbo is on the right track here, I *think*. We are constrained by a common meaning and understanding of words we use to define processes and ‘parts’ of things that maybe cannot be understood except as a whole. Consider radioactive decay or heat flow through a material; It would be decidedly difficult to describe those processes and states with only addition and subtraction — You need the right kind of mathematics. Differential equations work nicely, but aren’t a language everyone understands {myself included, usually}.

          But, in sticking with the language we have, I’m going to deferre futher inquiry to this book I’d stumbled upon earlier {I guess i’ll buy it… Thx, Marc, for piquing my interest} —

          — Patterns in space and time
          Information storage of its self-representation (genes)
          Metabolism, to keep the pattern persisting
          Functional interactions — it does stuff
          Interdependence of parts, or the ability to die
          Stability under perturbations
          Ability to evolve.

          The list provokes. For although we do not consider computer viruses alive, computer viruses satisfy most of the qualifications above. They are a pattern that reproduce; they include a copy of their own representation; they capture computer metabolistic (CPU) cycles; they can die; and they can evolve. We could say that computer viruses are the first examples of emergent artificial life.

          On the other hand, we all know of a few things whose aliveness we don’t doubt yet are exceptions to this list. A mule can not self-reproduce, and a herpes virus has no metabolism…. —

          Out of Control, Kevin Kelly

          • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

            I’ll restate as you are on board: Life is as you define it but doesn’t change a thing about the universe. Ultimately, so often this means that you have to go behind/underneath the label to make any greater understanding of the issue at hand. Its another way of saying that “labels” do not control a discussion. And what is a word most often other than a label for what is being discussed?

            Some people, in error I think, believe that “life” is exactly what the words say that define the term. So you have life meaning animals and plants and not other forms. How does this affect the reality of virii or donkeys? And the answer is: NOT AT ALL—which is what motivates my “words mean virtually nothing.” Whatever one’s interest in virii might be, I don’t see how it is improved or impacted by saying it is or is not a Life Form. The virii still do as they do and need to be understood on those terms.

            Same with Hoomans. Are they racial groups and if so, or if not, what are we really talking about?

            Don’t let the label control===go to the issue.

          • Tim says:

            “”“labels” do not control a discussion.

            No shit. That is what hashtags are for.

    • Fabby says:

      Well, us mere humans exist in “nature” and worms, viruses and trojan horses exist in a “computer”.
      So if you define “system” as “nature” for biological entities and “computer” for artificial life forms then IMHO we’re at the very early stage of “artificial evolution”.

      “Biological evolution”: mineral goop => Organic goop => proteins => RNA => DNA => Individual cells => multi-cellular organisms

      “Artificial evolution”: hardware wiring => ROM software => Self-replicating software (virus) => mobile software (worm) => self-modifying software (modern viruses/worms) => self-writing code (currently SF)


      • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

        Nice summary. The open question in my mind then is what does Marc think “life” is?

        • noname says:

          Given Marc Perkel criteria(s)
          It reproduces
          It evolves
          software can evolve and reproduce.

          The question is, do you believe this is really life?

          • Tim says:

            HA! I remember *Life*. I’d input it on my first computer, the TI-99/4A — you had to ‘save’ your programs on cassette tape {tarbel}. I thought it may have been in the instruction manual, Beginner’s Basic, so I managed to find that old hamster-gnawed thing. It’s not there. I probably saw it in Byte Magazine.

          • CrankyGeeksFan says:

            Conway’s Game of Life came to mind when I read Mark’s two criteria. I had to program Conway’s Game of Life in a Data Structures class in 2001.

            I don’t think software is alive.

            DNA is in a cell’s nucleus; the nucleus is not a “habitat” for the DNA. DNA isn’t considered a living thing on its own. Software would need processors to reproduce since it can’t without hardware. In this way, software is similar to a biological virus, an intracellular obligate parasite, and that’s why viruses aren’t considered living things.

            Maybe, if the software was combined with a kinetic sculpture – A Strandbeest , http://www.strandbeest.com/ , for instance, then a symbiosis might form of software and hardware.

          • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

            Well, since you are asking: according to a standard dictionary it is not life. If the issue was represented by Venn Diagrams, you would have Life as one Circle, Artificial Life/Constructs as the other Circle and the reproduces and evolves would be in the center overlap==but still two venn Circles.

            Everything is like everything else in one respect or more. doesn’t make them the same.


      • Tim says:

        “”mineral goop => Organic goop => proteins => RNA => DNA => Individual cells => multi-cellular organisms

        … => hive mind => group think => duck speak => M.A.D.D. => organic goop => Mark Potok

  25. Marc Perkel says:

    Before you all start comparing computer intelligence to humans – that’s not what I’m saying. When I say software is life – compare it to a fungus, or a potato. Life doesn’t require a brain.

    • Gilda Radner says:

      Ohh. Never mind.

    • noname says:

      “Life doesn’t require a brain.” .. Marc Perkel, you’ve demonstrated that, haven’t you?

      Was that mean of me?


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