Saturday, July 13, 2019

The inverted U of closed biological systems

Many have been worried about the existential threats to humanity – asteroids, climate change and ignorant leaders. However, there could be a more systemic and possibly unavoidable threat as long as Earth and its inhabitants continue to be a closed system. It is difficult to hypothesize based on a single observation of the emergence of life in the universe but the theory of evolution appears unassailable. Just as the accepted big bang theory in cosmology that seems to explain a lot after the point of origination but not the event itself, evolution seems to explain most observed biological specimens and their interactions but not the origination of life itself.

The accepted principle of evolution – the survival of the fittest – seems to be fine-tuned to optimize in short horizons. This is understandable as the survival of a species depends on adaptation to the present conditions and not a set of forecasted and uncertain conditions in the future. Thus, evolution creates fitter biological entities in the short run. It has led to more complex entities over time, the reasons of which are less clear. It is possible that the process is driven by underlying laws of physics, that has an arrow of complexity in biological entities aligned with that of time. This may be a side effect of unilaterally increasing entropy in the universe.

Thus, biological entities on Earth have been increasing in complexity. However, more complex entities also seem more fragile – with single cell organisms showing highest level of robustness and the latest iteration in complexity, the human, showing the lowest. In the past, we see several cycles where catastrophic events eliminated complex entities and returned the system to a much simpler state, albeit with differing initial conditions. This implies two things – closed biological systems in steady state will create more and more complex specimens and unavoidable and random catastrophic events will wipe out the more complex members and return the system to a simpler state at regular intervals.

Closed biological systems, thus, may have an inverted U curve on complexity and that may repeat over time. Humans, arguably the most complex in the contemporary system, could be primed for extinction in any large event. What have not been observed in the past are self-destructive internally generated events that humans appear to be very capable of initiating. So, the probability of cataclysmic events now is a lot higher than the past.  The laws of physics may be driving complexity of entities in a closed system higher over time, the laws of nature may be building complex but more fragile systems over time and in the presence of a catastrophic event, internal or external, the most complex entities are removed returning the system to a simpler state with different initial conditions.

The Earth may be due for a reset. This could also provide an alternative explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

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