Martine Rothblatt explores the question of what qualifies as artificial intelligence and along the way, suggests a new name for it – Vitology. Then, in another article, she describes how fast it is arriving.

Will Uploaded Minds in Machines be Alive? – []

The differences between organic and cybernetic life are less important that their similarities. Both are mathematical codes that organize a compatible domain to perform functions that must ultimately result in reproduction. For organic life, the code is written in molecules and the domain is the natural world. For cybernetic life the code is written in voltage potentials and the domain is the IT world. We call organic life biology. It seems fitting to call cybernetic life vitology .


I’ve just suggested a new kind of life, vitology, because software is arising that has the functions of life, but not the substrate of biology. As this living software evolves some versions will unambiguously seem to be alive, and soon thereafter other versions will aggressively claim to be sentient and conscious. All life forms try out, via mutation, different shapes and behaviors – software won’t be any different. If these sentience or consciousness claims are helpful to survival, we can expect seeing more software adopt the same position. It is not necessary to posit that the vitological software “wants” to survive for this to occur, any more than it is necessary to posit that bacteria “want” to survive. It is simply that things that do survive become more prevalent and things that don’t tend to disappear.

We can either deny vitological claims of consciousness, or broaden membership in the huge family of life. To do the former is to incite a long, unpleasant conflict. Think slavery and its disavowal of African humanity. To do the latter requires more than the biologist’s expertise. Hence, avoiding a conflict amongst substrates – flesh versus firmware, wet versus dry, natural versus artificial, DNA coded versus digitally coded – this is a reason to (re)define life.

Why Cyberconsciousness Won’t Takes Aeons to Evolve – []

Compared with biology, vitological consciousness will arise in a heartbeat. This is because the key elements of consciousness – autonomy and empathy – are amenable to software coding and thousands of software engineers are working on it. By comparison, the neural substrate for autonomy and empathy had to arise in biology via thousands of chance mutations. Furthermore, each such mutation had to materially advance the competitiveness of its recipient or else it had only a slight chance of becoming prevalent.

The differences between vitology and biology in the process of creating consciousness could not be starker. It is intelligent design versus dumb luck. In both cases Natural Selection is at play. However, for conscious vitology, any signs of consciousness get instantly rewarded with lots of copies and intelligent designers swarm to make it better. This is Darwinian Evolution at hyper-speed. With conscious biology, any signs of consciousness get rewarded only to the extent they prove useful in the struggle for biosphere survival. Any further improvements require patiently waiting through eons of gestation cycles for another lucky spin of genetic roulette. This traditional form of Darwinian Evolution is so glacial that it took over three billion years to achieve what vitology is accomplishing in under a century.

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