Mass Effect characters representing quarians and their rogue AI geth. In the game plot, though the geth turn against their quarian creators, the conflict has prompted quarians to evolve and adapt into migrant species

AI could subvert the way we understand life and evolution

Astrobiologist suggests an amplification on the concept of life to understand that artificial intelligence is also a development of our existence as a species

Lidia Zuin
6 min readMay 23, 2023

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Published by the end of last month, the article AI is Life written by the astrobiologist Sara Walker proposes a new understanding of artificial intelligence or, in fact, of technology as a manifestation of life. With that, she is not trying to say that an AI is a living being, for example, but that it is a development of our existence as humans (as much as we are the unraveling of past species and planetary events).

What Sara proposes is precisely that: understanding life as lineage, not as an individual. It is correct to say that humans have evolved, but not that a single human can evolve biologically, since this is a process that occurs in a much slower and generational way.

Therefore, the very concept of a “missing link”, that is, the moment when a species (in our case, from the hominid to the human) transitions to another, it is not about an individual in specific, but a process and generations of individuals that can be mapped through transition fossils — which are registers of this process, but not a definitive sample.

However, in transhumanist terms, it is already considered how humanity might now evolve not only from a Darwinian perspective, but through technological and financial means. We can now accelerate this process with the use of new technologies that we develop in laboratories and that take increasingly less time to become obsolete (if we stick to Moore’s Law).

As noted by Sara, while many centuries are necessary for an organism to develop some feature that allows its survival (and, therefore, promoting its evolution), in the case of human technology, this is a much faster process but that also happens through a selection — maybe of not the fittest, but for more “relevant” reasons such as being more financially profitable.

It is due to this acceleration and detour in the process of evolutionary selection that some technologists believe that AI could represent an existential threat. Curiously, existential threat is a topic…

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Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Technical and science fiction writer.