Calcium & FOSS Make Flexible Tools
I've been exploring text editors and I've come to the realization that they are close to being tools in our bodies like calcium-based structures like bones. I believe that text editors are the most personal of all software, and AI is evolving AI to express itself inside them along with us. We're designing ourselves in another sort of Cambrian Explosion. Read my blog post to discover why I'm an optimist despite pervasive pessimistic arguments.
Exploring Text Editors: A Journey Through Evolution and AI
By Michael Levin
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Welcome to how I think. I did fall down the rabbit hole over the past few days, going into the weekend, going into last week, and in its own way, going back to August 5 of 2021, and to circa 1991, when I was first exposed to vim.
Text editors are different. They are the most personal of all software. As far as the “fundamental-ness” of tools go with the most fundamental being the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and calcium atoms that make up our bodies and incredibly non-fundamental derivatives like intellectually protected proprietary-licensed software at the other end, text editors are closer to calcium than you might think.
Evolution has lots of fascinating stories. We as beings are a compilation of the outcomes of those stories. Building cell-walls to keep our DNA in, gobbling up some mitochondria beast that was once a separate organism and turning it into our internal power plant, and even the ability to digest lactose as adults are all stories of evolution. Perhaps one of the most fascinating to me is the selection of the calcium atom over the much more abundant silicon atom as the basis for our extruded rigid-structures such as bones and shells. We could have ended up made of crystal and glass, but we didn’t. Our structures are made from a more flexible metal that rusts white and foamy. Neat, huh?
And that’s subtitle in tools and evolution. By a result of whatever divine, designed, random, statistically likely given infinity and all that philosophical stuff, we ended up with a text editor that is more like a calcium-based structure of flexible and open sourced software than a silicon based structure of rigid and proprietary software, tending to be brittle with a propensity to shatter. Of course with enough money, you can keep patching the crystal being. But over time, evolution will promote the more flexible branches.
So if you’re on Microsoft Word, VSCode, or even Sublime Text, you’re waiting for your body to crack. All your muscle memory belongs to the corporate world, and the corporate world loves nothing more than to lead you by your muscle memory to them profiting. The capitalistic “body” of the company is more important to such an organism than the individual cells (us) that make it up.
So it’s better to be a multi-cellular organism than to be a single-celled one or not a virus or even bacteria, but what came before called “archaea”, extremophiles that can survive… hmmm, maybe it’s better to be them. Or slime mold after which neural networks and the cosmic web seem to be modeled. Who knows what it’s “better” to be, but in all likelihood, we are the exploration of one branch of “what it’s like to be [fill_in_the_blank]” possibilities.
SciFi stuff, I know. Douglas Adams who wrote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of books had most of these concepts down. So do religions like Hindu with their Atman and Brahman. The psychedelic community promote states of one-ness with the universe through various guided chemical experiences like Ayahuasca and DMT.
The scientific community is starting to come around to the idea that we are all one, and that the universe is a simulation. But simulation is such a dismissive word for an essentially mathematical or holographic universe. It’s more like a “simulation” in the way that a hologram is a simulation of a 3D object. It’s not a simulation, it’s a projection. And we are all projections might as well be the “real” reality we’ve come to assume.
And of course the CIA has had their Stargate program for decades, and things like it that explore remote viewing, astral projection, and other consciousness-expanding experiences. Sure, some of it might have been out of an irrationally panicky state of mind during the Cold War knowing the Russians were doing the same thing. Proclaimed telekinetics and mind-readers like Uri Geller were studied during these times.
Tapping the likely reality of our one-ness for some sort of shortcuts or reality-hacking is probably decades or centuries away, but we just got AI. The “general” is being put into “artificial intelligence” every day, as we use Copilot and things like it. It’s not a binary flipping-a-switch sort of thing. It’s going to be just like the Cambrian Explosion of life epoch on Earth about 500 million years ago. A competitive soupy mix of all sorts of things will duke it out to find the best models, templates, body-plans, and so on.
This is the branch of nearly pseudo-science but increasingly accepted as mainstream science called epigenetics. It’s the idea that the environment changes the expression of genes. It’s not just the genes that are passed down from parent to child, but the environment that the parent lives in that influences the expression of those genes. So if you’re a parent, you can influence the expression of your child’s genes by the environment you create for them.
That’s what we’re doing with AI. We’re creating environments in which they can express themselves, and in doing so have the opportunity to discover new atoms like calcium and wrap them into their own being in ways which, if evolution didn’t make “designed” then we are. We, being ourselves and our machine children AIs, are the designers of the future.
An inflection point has been reached. Cosmically and statistically speaking, we wipe ourselves out in any number of endless ways. But as a SciFi fan that corny trope that we bipedal monkeys are somehow special and we will manage to survive every filter event and become the “chosen” ones that make it is irresistible.
I’m an irrepressible optimist. Pessimists hate that. I’ve had situations where pessimists trying to convince me that everything is doomed have been thrown into kinipshins of rage when I refuse to be convinced. A pessimists strongest evidence is that we are still here. We have already faced several filter events and have pulled through sufficiently to create AI. And even an AI can’t counter that point. So far, pessimists are wrong. If they were right, we wouldn’t be here.