Conversely, a mule is alive but unable to have offspring. A computer virus can multiply by infecting programs like the biological equivalent infects a cell, but does it deserve to be called an organism?
Thanks to computers, researchers have a powerful tool capable of simulating the functions of living organisms and incorporate them into their programs so they can replicate the parameters of virtual organizations: ant colonies, the evolution of a snail egg, or plant growth.
If the musician robot from the Tsukuba Expo (Japan, 1989) or the creature from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” seems just as alive as you and me, these fantasy humanoid creatures or robots lack a subtle combination that governs all living processes: fate. Life evolves as time passes and involves an infinite multitude of parameters, which makes it seemingly unpredictable.
All organisms live in a “random order” that ensures stability, while allowing them to react to the environment. It’s adaptability, learning. Without order, the world would plunge into anarchy; without fate – and we will see in cosmology that it is not “innocent” – there would be no evolution. However, all computer programs, even if they appear able to respond to unforeseen situations or to make decisions, are created according to a specific purpose. There is an ambiguity. Just like in the Middle Ages, vitalists asserted that the purpose of man was in the image of God (anthropic principle), a living organism is not a machine.
We can also consider that being alive is when evolution is followed; such as survival, preservation of the species. This allows us to offer a definition of life that emerges from anthropocentrism, with no particular purpose or morality. We must add to the previous definiton that “the matter is able to self-organize without programming.”