Chapter 12: The Principle of Computational Equivalence

Section 10: Intelligence in the Universe

Forms of living systems

This book has shown that even with underlying rules of some fixed type a vast range of different forms can often be produced. And this makes it reasonable to expect that with appropriate genetic programs the chemical building blocks of life on Earth should in principle allow a vast range of forms. But the comparative weakness of natural selection (see page 391) has meant that only a limited set of such forms have actually been explored. And from the experience of this book I suspect that what others might even be nearby is effectively impossible to foresee. The appearance in engineering of forms somewhat like those in living systems should not be taken to imply that other forms are fundamentally difficult to produce; instead I suspect that it is more a reflection of the copying of living systems for engineering purposes. The overall morphology of living systems on Earth seems to be greatly affected by their basically gelatinous character. So even systems based on solids or gases would likely not be recognized by us as life.

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]