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Must something be biological and not mechanical in order for that something to be considered alive?

In Theo Jansen's TED presentation, he states that his creature are alive. From the observations I myself made, his mechanical creatures seek the wind (their energy source) which they are capable of storing for later use. They stay within their optimum environment, in which they explore through what I am going to say is "touch" and protect themselves with that "touch" to move away from the high tide and drive their "heads" into the sand during storms, so they don't blow away. Many have said within the post that what eliminates them as life forms is their inability to communicate, reproduce, and evolve.

My question here is: what constitutes "life"? A jelly fish does not have a brain and yet it is considered a live animal. When a person is in a coma on life support, they are not capable of reproduction or even breathing on their own, and yet most would consider them to be alive. Are these man made creations not "alive" simply because they are just that- man made creations? What makes a man made cloned animal any more alive than these creatures?

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    Dec 16 2011: To be alive something must be a closed system, have a metabolism, reproduce and be subject to evolution. What it is made of, or who made it is irrelevant.

    I think with great effort it would almost be possible to create a living machine that meets all these requirements with todays technology. A gigantic factory floating through space with the ability to harvest raw materials and energie and transform them into usable materials. Able to autonomically produce machines with rudimentary intelligence that can maintain the factory and others that can build a new one. All of these processes controlled by a supercomputer at the heart of said factory making adjustments to it's own design via simulations with genetic algorithms to improve the next generation of factories...Ok not possible, but it sounds exciting
  • Dec 10 2011: It has to be able to reproduce. And someone on life support could be argued to not yet be dead, but to be dependent upon the support, which if withdrawn, would cause death. So a machine, if you took away its energy source, would shut down immediately. A human, plant or animal can still exist for awhile before dying of starvation.
    Yes, tho life as we know it eats something to keep it going, you could say that a machine using batteries, or electricity, or something else for power is eating for nourishment. But it does not grow, or repair and maintain its cells, etc. so as not to fall apart or decay (before death.) We tend to do that repair work while sleeping. A machine, if it is turned off and seems to be "sleeping" is not doing any of that needed repair work.

    I think that we all as children thought our stuffed animals and other toys to be alive. (Grown-up toys, too.) These non-sentient non-living beings can be infused with human qualities, in our imaginations, and then we place the quality of being alive on them, as well. It is wishful thinking, as well as personification, which helps us to relate to them as we do to real living things. This happens in all cultures, and seemingly thru much of humans' history/pre-history. So I think maybe that is what is happening here.
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    Dec 6 2011: A machine can be alive IF: it takes in food; gets energy from that food; grows; adapts itself to its surroundings and reproduces its kind.
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    Dec 4 2011: Most life forms, like the jellyfish, don't have a brain. You said it in your opening statement: ability to adapt and evolve, and to reproduce (necessary for evolution) characterize life. Life responds to its environment and communicates with other living beings. Defining "life" has always been difficult, and no simple definition is satisfactory. It is better to think of "life" as an action, a verb if you will, than as a thing. Life (or living) is something one does. If "it" does those things, perhaps it's alive.

    More important is that it's not necessary to define "life" against all comers. Most of our words, including nouns, can't be defined precisely. Try to define "green." The definition is arbitrary. At what height does a "building" become a "skyscraper"? Arbitrary. When is a shoe not a shoe but a boot? Arbitrary again. When the time comes that it's necessary to decide whether something's "life" we'll try to do it. Maybe arbitrarily. Until then it's a good topic for coffee house philosophy.
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    Dec 1 2011: Well, there aren't anymore philosophical barriers between the biological world and the mechanical world.
    On one hand we know that everything in the biosphere can be reduced to chemistry and physics. On the other, we know that life is not restricted to the carbon-based one we're used to.
    Life has several definitions. It may refer to an autonomous metabolism. Or it may refer to the phenomenum resulting from things causing their environment to make copies of themselves, from copying errors and the selective competition of rival variation...