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Looking at Mankind Through a Giant's Microscope

  1. Dec 2, 2013 #1
    This is one of my favorite thought experiments.

    Imagine for a moment, you are a giant looking down at earth, and seeing it as if a person observing organisms from a microscope. imagine the microscope isn't good enough to see people but resolute to make out which look to be grey patches, little discolorations on the surface, we call them cities. Imagine you could interact with it and cause disruption, say destroy and scrape away one of these grey patches and observe the response. My question is this, at what point do we consider mankind itself to be a living organism?

    Whatever groups we make up, is it appropriate to assign it qualities such as life or consciousness? Or perhaps something beyond our ability to imagine?

    If you are unsure whether something is alive or not what tests can be done to determine it?
    According to Websters Online Dictionary the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.

    It must grow through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaption to environment through changes originating internally. Lets see what does mankind metabolize? Well just about anything, oil being the big one, uranium, natural gas, wood, food, minerals, etc.

    Reproduction, well I'm not sure if mankind has ever reproduced maybe it hasn't developed enough yet. the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally. mankind has always adapted through internal changes, more people rode their bikes during the oil crisis in the 1970's, any disaster like Fukushima, or other major earthquakes change how buildings are designed. etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2013 #2


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    Observing the species as a whole it would be easy to see growth, adaptability and metabolism. There's no evidence to suggest that humans make up a super organism and speculating is largely pointless, can a cell understand its part of a larger organism? No. I'm failing to see the utility of this thought experiment.
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