Chicken or Egg?
“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is a question that stands for a whole class of paradoxical questions which we have agreed to let float, unsolved, in our collective consciousness. But I don’t think we should settle for that.
Plutarch was one of the first to wrestle with the question. In The Symposiacs Firmus argues the egg came first, because it is less developed, and less developed things precede more-developed things. And Senecio then argues that only the more perfect can produce the less perfect — and not the other way around, therefore the chicken produced the egg.
Wikipedia records arguments from scientists that one particular bird had some DNA that caused a shell-like covering to surround a newborn. So technically the bird came first.
I am not ready to lay the question to rest, because it seems unlikely that any creature that was the “First” of it’s kind, could have the ability to reproduce for the first time. In other words, when was the last time you made something that could reproduce itself, or at least something like itself? Reproduction is one of the key qualities of a living thing — the ability to produce offspring. It is not easy to make something reproduceable. We can write software programs that do something like that. But compared to living things, these creations are extremely crude. Some living things can produce more than one offspring at a time — even humans can do this. The DNA is combined and off you go.
My feeling is that the existence of reproduction is just another indicator that life was placed on Earth, as an experiment, by some superior intelligence. We are currently experimenting with Artificial Intelligence, and have found, to our surprise, that some of the algorithms we have created have caused our robots to start learning things on their own that we didn’t anticipate. That is a crude twist and reflection on what we, as humans, are doing today. Originally I would say, we grew from the muck — the original chemical compounds and primary structures that some intelligence placed on earth. Now we are to the point of trying to create crude structures that approximate ourselves. Somewhere, someone is laughing at us.
I think time is something that is completely relative to the normal lifespan of the creature(s) experiencing time. For example, insects typically live from days to a few years. Their turnover is quick, and their DNA is likely to change faster than for a species like ours. For a superior intelligence that may have learned how to not decompose — age — time may be irrelevant. Perhaps the “experiment” of life on planet Earth is merely a term’s worth of a lab exercise. See what grows, what changes, what developments are made, what social structures evolve, and then shut the whole thing down.
Cornell self-modeling robot that teaches itself to walk (depicted at top of article). This robot incidentally was found to have a neuron that recognized its scientists’ faces. Spooky.