I’ve been thinking a lot about how we got here and the process of life. The fact that we’re here today and that we’re able to harness the world around us to explore not only the ends of the earth, but also the depths of the solar system outside of us… is mind boggling to me. This comes with two things:
The living body. Creatures are (usually) born very small and can grow to a massive size. It doesn’t take anything for this process to work except fuel, yet there’s something in that creature innately that tells it that it needs to make physical changes during its lifetime. Where is it written in our bodies to being puberty at a specific age? It’s certainly not in our brains; it’s not a choice for us to being puberty. In our reproductive systems? Our reproductive systems down have a mind of their own (though some philosophers might disagree with you on that fact). It’s just written into our DNA somewhere, somehow. What begins as a simple organism turns becomes this massively complex system of organs, vessels and neurons. It’s fascinating.
Materials. Look at all the stuff around you right now. These things are made of plastic, metal, wood… all things that come with a varied degree of synthetics and complex processes that were used to create them. The crazy part about this is that (according to the laws of nature), energy and matter are neither destroyed nor created out of nothing; simply transformed and transferred. The things around you were made with molecules that have been in existence since the beginning of time, even if they’re synthetic. We are now using these molecules to watch movies, feed our children, and explore space. Our current technology is based on the science of our fore-bearers, surely. But the products from then and now… are made up of the same things. It just looks a little different. What will our surroundings look like in the far future?
In the software industry, we call this idea Bootstrapping. To explain briefly, it’s the idea that a program can be launched in order to launch others, restart the device, or otherwise do something that’s bigger than itself. A simple example of bootstrapping is when you turn on your computer and some programs are started automatically. You can find some more complex examples in the preceding Wikipedia article.
I have a hard time thinking about bootstrapping outside the context of technology. There are important distinctions between bootstrapping in technology and bootstrapping in nature: you can update a piece of technology. A person can intervene and alter the bootstrapping process, causing it to behave differently. This isn’t possible with bootstrapping in nature, or at least not on the same scale. It’s there and it’s not going anywhere.
Sorry for missing March. Not that anyone cares.
I’m working on a three-part blog post series. Stay tuned.