My old Webster’s dictionary (1960) does not even list the term “software” in its entries. As recently as 50 years ago in the “development” or apparent evolution of man the concept was not widely known.
Today millions of us use software, and many humans are even well versed in the concept of “programming” – designing or directing a series of symbols to perform intended tasks using electricity and silicon.
At the same time another industry is using the most powerful computers on the planet to decode the complex set of instructions in our genetic code – the genome. It has discovered not that the genetic code is “like” software (an analogy) – but that it is in fact exactly that. Genticist Juan Enriquez has stipulated that organic life is literally an “application” – behaving according to a programmed set of instructions in its DNA.
While we still cannot create life (although scientists predict it will happen) we can reprogram it.
Here an interesting puzzle is presented.
Could software have come into existence without man – or at least intelligent life? Hardly. It is difficult to imagine software appearing in an inanimate, mechanical universe devoid of life and intelligence. Clearly in a world without humans (or intelligent life) there would be no technology.
But if Life is actually software – programmed intentionality in organic matter – is it reasonable to think that it could have “evolved” out of inanimate, mechanical stuff?
Certainly the implications are troubling – wherever the original intention behind Life’s programming – whatever its ultimate “source” – what might have created or caused that? An infinite paradox for theologians, scientists and seekers.
But the problem may not be the paradox, but the language framing it.
In posing this puzzle, we assume a level of linear causality that we have recently discovered may be entirely missing in another area of scientific inquiry – quantum physics.
Without stooping to the level of simplicity that says that all physical law is “mental” or connected to the observer or consciousness at the subatomic level (which is hard to fathom much less explain intelligently) – although it can be “felt” –
...we may nonetheless also “feel” the possibility that if our own “nature” is in fact decodable based on a set of symbols (numbers, letters, zeroes, ones), then concepts of reality pointing to the primacy of Mind over Matter – which are the basis of many ancient teachings – may be onto something very deep and true.
The decoding of the genome, for example, points quite directly to a “meaning” and “intention” in our Being – first survival – then replication – and perhaps ultimately – what? Evolution or transformation?
The development of software is a double edged sword. On the one hand it provides the potential for unparalleled control over humanity in a 1984-like scenario. What some may term degeneration of free will or involution.
On the other, it points the way toward a different level of meaning. By introducing the concept and the actual experience of an “application” – something artificial (man made) that performs intended tasks according to a [human] mental directive – an electronic being – based on human intelligence and intention – it shows how mind can shape materiality in a direct way. How a mind can exist through electrical impulses and silicon to perform intelligent, intended tasks on the human scale.
One may well ask, on what scale or in what realm of creative mental space might whatever have placed the intention or meaning within Life – our genetic code – exist?
It (God, She, He) need not exist on a material level at all. We experience the realm of thought within whatever software coexists in the operating system of our brains.
Might not a living, sentient level of thought be galvanizing the material realm, and Life on our planet, for purposes that we can barely fathom and are at a loss to explain with our feeble logic?