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article imageStudy: Moore's Law suggests life existed before Earth was formed

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 21, 2013 in Science
Scientists Richard Gordon and Alexei Sharov have suggested that if the rate of increase in the complexity of biological systems in the course of evolutionary history followed Moore's Law then life existed before the Earth was formed.
Moore's Law posits that the complexity of computers increases exponentially at a rate of about double the transistors per integrated circuit every two years.
Theoretical calculations based on Moore's Law yield results that coincide with the invention of the first microchips in the 1960s.
Geneticist Richard Gordon of Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida and Alexei Sharov of the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, basing their calculations on the premise that genetic complexity of living systems double every 376 million years, projected the origin of life back to almost 10 billion years ago. Geologists believe the age of the Earth is about 4.5 billion years. If Gordon and Sharov's projections based on Moore's law have any valid basis, it means that life is older than the Earth by 5.5 billion years.
This leads to the suggestion that life arose elsewhere in the universe and migrated to the Earth after it was formed.
According to the researchers in the study titled "Life Before Earth," uploaded to the preprint database arXiv, "An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed... The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors... Linear regression of genetic complexity on a log scale extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life 9.7 billion years ago."
An important implication of their approach is that it contradicts the widely held view that technological advanced alien species may exist in the universe, because if Moore's Law applies to the rate of increase of genetic complexity universe-wide then life on Earth would be one of the first to evolve since the universe was formed after the big bang.
The paper continued:
This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth; there was no intelligent life in our universe prior to the origin of Earth, thus Earth could not have been deliberately seeded with life by intelligent aliens; Earth [could only have been] seeded by panspermia... [the] Drake equation for guesstimating the number of civilizations in the universe is likely wrong, as intelligent life has just begun appearing in our universe.
Panspermia implies that simple lifeforms were carried across interstellar distances on comets, asteroids and other inorganic space debris. Such bodies impacting the Earth's surface could have contaminated its sterile atmosphere with the first primitive life forms that evolved into modern advanced life forms.
The researchers acknowledge their work is based on the assumption that Moore's Law applies to the complexity of biological complexity as it does to the complexity of computer machines.
According to The Huffington Post, Sharov said: "There are lots of hypothetical elements to [our argument]… but to make a wider view, you need some hypothetical elements."
The theoretical implications of drawing a parallel between computers and life are far-reaching. If genomic evolution shares fundamental properties in common with information-processing systems then the concept of evolution is not limited to emergence of genomic architectural complexity but also to the evolution of knowledge-based human civilization. The researchers concluded: "Evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind, multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached ca. 20 years. Finally, we discuss the issue of the predicted technological singularity and give a biosemiotics perspective on the increase of complexity."
The technological singularity refers to the popular idea that technological civilization is approaching the point of emergence of artificial systems with "superintelligence" surpassing human. The theory of the technological singularity proposes that the course of history beyond the singularity cannot be predicted because human affairs as we know it now could not continue.
Gordon and Sharov point out that their work should be considered as a "thought exercise" based on conceptual premises worthy of attention.
To support their view, the researchers pointed out that the very early appearance of life on Earth is best explained by the contamination-with-spores-from-space hypothesis. Scientists believe life first appeared on Earth about 3.6 billion years ago or during the first billion years after its formation.
The researchers admitted that the appearance from their calculation that life is older than the Earth could also be explained by suggesting that life did not evolve according to Moore's Law throughout the geologic ages. For instance, under certain environmental conditions, evolution may have slowed down, while it was accelerated under other conditions. A cataclysm could cause a reversal in evolutionary progress by wiping out the most advanced forms.
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