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:
- It reproduces
- 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.