A plant isn't normally considered a machine, but it should be. By what do we define a living organism or a machine? The words are semantically narrow, but should be a bit more broad, so that our perspective on life can change.
If you define a living organism as an organism that survives, procreates, and functions by way of organic processes involving organic material in a cellular structure that is very advanced at the microscopic and molecular levels, then can't you also define it as a complex machine that is made up of organic chemical compounds. That it uses organic material and energy from sources such as nutrients and the Sun to maintain itself by creating advanced structures on many different levels of scope including the molecular to the microscopic and larger in an attempt to maintain the advanced structure and cycles of the overall machine. All this done based upon the blueprints defined by a code contained within the advanced organic molecular structure called DNA.
This highly advanced process includes the reproduction of more machines in order to produce further generations because the current machine gets old, unstable, and less reliable then a newly produced machine. This process also includes the ability to self-manage the input (nutrients and energy) given to the organic plant in order to use it as the fuel driving the multitude of mechanisms that lead to the survival of this machine which based upon the DNA mechanism includes the survival of the species (the specific model of the machine) because each machine is capable of producing newer machines.
In this view, a plant becomes a manufacturing device. It manufactures more machines capable of the same processes based upon the blueprints contained within, simultaneously subsisting on the input given to it by outside forces such as nature (the Sun's energy and nutrients within the soil) in order to survive and ensure survival of future generations or productions of the same machine.
The terminology is just semantics. If you could describe this as a method to explain everything that has machine characteristics living and non-living, then all machine-like devices in the physical world are machines. Each has a function to which it performs until it breaks down.
If a machine has the capability of fixing minor breakdowns and persisting based upon a very advanced parallelism structure where multiple functioning mini-machines ensure that if one becomes disabled others can take its place and perform the duties, then we call it living.
We call it living because it is born by seed, duplication, egg, mammal birth and then it lives (performs its functions) and then eventually becomes unstable in its ability to fix the minor problems it incurrs and the machine becomes old or more difficult to maintain and thus ceases to function or dies.
We define living based upon this overly told process of birth, life, and death. Can we name one living organism that does not die? There is no immortal organism. However, many lower-order (lower on the echelon of complexity among all "living organisms") are able to survive extreme temperatures, die and be given life again, become frozen in its state and then reawaken into life after it is defrosted many years later.
It then appears that as a "organic machine" becomes more and more complex, the ability of dying and then reliving becomes more difficult and less statistically likely and frequent. It's as if the machine's complexity has something to do with the maintainibility of the machine much like our non-organic man-made machines that we are more familiar with calling machines.
So, in my paradigm, any functioning machine that has the ability of birth, life, and death is what we consider living. That is the term living, but yet viruses and prions are not normally classified as living.
Is life based upon the size and complexitiy of the organic machine and does it only have to be organic to be considered living? Isn't that restricting the definition of the word "living" by excluding a small portion of the spectrum of complexity of organic machines and excluding all inorganic machines from this classification?
I believe that is prejudgemental and close-minded, if not a myopic view of what the definition of a machine is versus a the definition of a living organism.
Mechanisms as advanced as a single unicellular organism all the way to a human being exist, and some machines exist as "systems" even beyond the scope of the most advanced machine, humans.
Ecosystems are systems which dervive from many units or machines or cells of living organisms functioning in a close proximity which we call an enviroment to help each other function, live and die. That system itself is alive by definition except that it doesn't seem to procreate. It only continues to change and age, just like the machines it contains within, just like the unicellular organism becomes old and its mechanisms change and age.
Ecosystems can have death, but their lifespan is much longer than the organisms it contains within, much like that of a multicellular organism, and sometimes can have eternal life as long as the resources providing it with life continue to persist, for example the Sun.
Ironically, the multicellular organism has a much longer lifespan than each individual cell contained within it, which makes one ponder how a multicellular organism is any different from an ecosystem with individual organism living within it.
Another thought to pensively consider is why do we exclude cells from being considered a living individual organism and not distinguish them as a colony of cells contained in a higher order living organism such as a human?
Individual tissue cells are technically all organisms, and multicellular organisms are just complex ecosystems or colonies of the cells contained within. There is a blueprint for the overall structure of this ecosystem and that is what differs from the ecosystems we are familiar with semantically on an Eartly scale such as the rainforest and other climatically influenced ecosystems. So maybe there is a difference, but there is quite a similarity that using the human perception and the terms to redescribe a system so differently based upon our inferences of the systems is a bit short-sighted.
What makes a virus not a living organism and what makes the collaborative efforts of all the ecosystems in the world one large living organism that is the mother Gaia we call Earth so much different?
OK, back to the definition of a machine. Structures and mechanisms in motion make up our description of a machine. The scientific definition of a machine includes the terms that it is a device that transmits or modifies energy. We commonly accept this to only include devices made of non-organic material that have rigid moving parts which accomplish some sort of work and require some sort of input or energy source.
A power drill is a machine, it's made of non-organic material, it plugs into the 120 volts of alternating current voltage and uses that energy to rotate the drill bit when a trigger is pulled. If the trigger could be self-pulled, and the energy source received from the sun such as installing solar panels upon the machine, then the machine would need less input. This is a hard concept to explain beyond the scope of a power drill, but the idea is that anything that performs a function or has some sort of physical world interaction and duty is considered a machine.
We narrow the definitions for our semantics and easier identification and classification as humans interacting with machines of all sorts and living organisms of all sorts. A virus is excluded from being living because it does not self-replicate. A live organism is opposite a dead organism in that it is still functioning as that organism was designed (by G*d or by evolution or both) to function, but if you broaden the definition of life to include non-carbon based biology, and artificial life such as in vitro and in silico creations of man, then why should the definition of a machine be any different.
Machines, living organisms, both exhibit functions of input, output and function. Living organisms live. Machines are turned on and off, or in other words are utilized or not utilized. Self-procreating organisms continue their species, and sustain their life.
So, let's revisit the idea of complexity. The complexity of something determines our order of description. If something is very complex that we are unable to discern how it works with our humanistic techniques for reverse engineering the grand process of organic evolution, we marvel at its ability to function and sometimes turn to our descriptive words like magic and divine. Once we learn the inner workings of the complexity we decide to call it scientifically understood and we reach a conclusion about everything we can or cannot visibly observe.
We know it's structure and complexity and we give it a level of complexity among the echelon's of complexity in our animal kingdom. With living organisms, we haven't exactly kept to the orders of complexity so much as non-organic technology, but we discern mammals from reptiles and amphibians, plants, fungii, bacteria, and viruses.
To classify an animal based upon charateristics is obvious, but does this allow for us to not only to consider the underlying definition of intelligence, but also the complexity in the "organic machine's" capability to interact and function?
What is an omniverous creature versus a carnivore? We base our decisions on certain ideas of thought such as muscle tissue, brains, skeletons, and other more advanced designs of living machines. Can we take this view and elaborate on intelligence from a neural perspective and bring intelligence into a broader definition that is main point of this entire discourse?
Intelligence is normally measured with only humans. We view it that way, because we are the only beings capable of self-thought and human-speech that we can perceive. And as humans, we size people up unknowningly based upon their ability to speak. It's your mental view into someone else's intelligence. You only know how a person thinks based upon their vocal opinions and visual behaviors. Too often, people with speech impediments are viewed as less smart and people who are not very well spoken seem less educated.
This is a generalization and isn't necessarily true. A mentally retarded or mentally impaired person may sound less intelligent in their vocalizations and their intelligence quotient may reflect our perceptions correctly.
However, someone who speaks with bad grammar might not be verbally intelligent, but might be very mathematically intelligent or mechanically intelligent. We judge intelligence illogically, and we cannot see intelligence for what it truly is, the capability of problem solving, the ability to perceive, the complexity of our knowledge and our ability to use our brain (CPU) to interact and run the software that we are given.
A brain injury inhibits the intelligence of a person because those portions of the brain's function are lost or irrepairable. We determine the intelligence quotient on the ability of a person to solve these problems.
OK, so that's very, very advanced intelligence. Let's break down intelligence and bring it to its primal counterparts. Human intelligence is mainly a few components of memory, learning, and problem solving. Memory is storage of information. Learning is redefining the software in the brain, the ability of the brain to reprogram itself for the sake of adding a new function to its repertoire. Problem solving is using the memory and software and tools learned to solve an actual problem.
Intelligence, in general, is similar; it's the information and the function. Learning is something brains do and do quite well. If you exclude learning from the formula for intelligence which is actually not included in the IQ test, then advanced structures of the brain are not much different then anything else with the same properties, however basic they might be.
Take potential energy and kintetic energy for instance. These physics terms have a relation which is a known law of the universe that the law appears to always be in effect. It never breaks down, the law is there, the function is there, the information is there.
If a heavy rock is on the top of an edge of a cliff, it's potential energy is very high, but the kinetic energy is very low. It's physical intelligence is basic, but existent. If the rock weakens the gravel and sandstone around the cliff's edge because time alows the heaviness of the rock to push on the atomic and molecular structures of the inorganic materials enough that the sandstone reaches its breaking point and the heavy boulder begins a journey down the side of the steep embankment of the cliffside, it picks up kinetic energy and loses its potential energy.
This is a function of the rock on the edge of the cliff. This mechanism is always in effect due to the laws of nature and the physics of the rock on the edge of the cliff.
A lawn mower has intelligence also, it has gasoline in a gas tank that is flammable and could ignite when systematically injected into the cylinders of the engine and combusted with the mechanisms at play.
The intelligence of the machine is based upon its design, but if its a 4 stroke engine with 4 pistons, there will always be two pistons in the up position and always two pistons in the down position so long as the machine works. If a piston was not in the correct position, the metal rods connecting it to the crankshaft might have broken and the machine would cease to function. We would call the lawn mower broken and attempt to fix the machine.
The machine has intelligence though because it has an innate knowledge of where the pistons are even though it doesn't consciously have any knownledge of the positions of the pistons. The physical mechanisms at play (when the machine is working) allow for the mechanical intelligence of the lawn mower to have knowledge of its pistons and combustion stages. This is the basis of the mechanical intelligence quotient that should be a building block for other intelligence quotient ideas.
Other intelligence quotients can exist, such as economic intelligence quotients, political IQ's, all the way to higher level quotients such as the IQ we are normally familiar with.
All in all, more discussion in this topic will be considered in future posts and I will revise my idea for better comprehension and understanding with better visualizations to further explain my alternative way of viewing all things.
"Divinity is the perfect machine." Jason Samfield, 2007