Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Observe, learn and philosophise: Bio system

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Observe and philosophise(Speculate or theorise about fundamental or serious issues).

Get enchanted with your econaut shrimp, casting its antenna in slow looping rhythms. Watch the snails cruise the glass like slient sumo wrestlers on night patrol. Zoom in on tiny creatures oozing out of the muck. They are the bottom of the food chain, the disassembers of the dead.

There's never been another world like this one. In a way, you're God! Which might bring on some curious emotions if something goes awry.
Multispecies assemblages like the TSSM are never 100% reliable. Your econaut might die mysteriously. Or you might observe signs of stress: shrimp that molt and then shrink instead of grow, or carnivory among normally vegetarian shrimp or snails. Hard questions arise.
Was it right to start this world? will you intervene, or abandon your creations to a sealed fate?
Life inside such tight ecological loops are rarely a cakewalk, and this begs some questions. Does closed-system sustainability simply emerge as you scale things up? Or is there something about the Earth and its millieu of flux on flux that we've failed to understand so far? Might our increasingly crowded planet, with a rising rate of extinctions, start resembling a laboratory microcosm? And for those with sci-fi dreams, could living on Mars be little more than desperate farming? But if ecosystems engineering makes progress, we have hope. Mark Kliss, chief of the Bioengineering Branch at NASA's Ames Research Center, envisions extraterrestrial life support systems that provide a high quality of life, with a contribution from automation. Machines and software could monitor conditions and energy inputs, nudging ecological feedback loops away from mutual parasitism and into productive symbiosis.
It's a vision our environmental movement might consider. The things that finally allows people to live in balance with nature might be technology. The force that once seemed most opposed to it.


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