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Are Viruses Considered As 'alive' Following up on the robots-life issue


nighthawk1405241531

This is very difficult question. They look more like very complicated chemical than a living being. And those things that cause mad cow disease ( I forgot how they are called) they don't even have DNA nor RNA. They are consisted only of proteins, so we can treat them more like a poison. But they are able to multiply inside host's body.It's really hard to define what is alive and what is not. And what would happen when we build a robot that has all properties of a living being (take care of itself, multiply...). Would it be alive?


Chesso

nighthawk, that's actually a pretty good point about robots, I suppose more people would be leaning on the no in regards to that though (but it may very well end up on the debate table aswell).I do not have any knowledge or any sort of education concerning biology or anything like that so anything I say is purely based on my logical thoughts or some such eh.I'm not entirely sure how a virus or other similar things work but if it can manage to feed off something and replicate itself and grow and what not I would say it's alive.Maybe not in the same was as us, bit I suppose if you think about, it does have some similarities eh.In regards to "vegetable people", I would classify them as alive, their brain may not function as well but their overall system still caters to iself to a degree and grows, changes, eats, excretes etc.Anyway, I don't have any technicaly knowledge on the subject so I can't say much, but from my understanding I would classify a virus or some virus's as alive.


webintern

Just a few technicalities ... prions, which are the proteins mentioned earlier that cause Mad Cow's Disease (BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy), do not actually multiply in the traditional sense. That is, they do not take raw products and transform them into replicants of the original. Instead, they convert already existing proteins to conform to their shape. The resulting protein then has the same replicative (or transforming) properties as the original protein.As for chesso's ideas, they are pretty good considering your lack of background in biology. But for accuracy's sake, viruses do not "feed off something". They simply utilize your body's cellular machinery to produce DNA or RNA and proteins that become new viruses. The fundamental processes involved are virtually identical to that used in cells.


Chesso

Thanks for the nice comment webintern, it's greatly appreciated!So if I have this right now, say these cells within the body are generated, more or less by the body and these virus's simply transform or in some way change them to be like the virus, is that along the right lines?Seeing more discussions such as this on the board are really starting to peak more of an interest in them for me, I may have to start doing some searching and self learning to find some more technical details and understanding so I can participate better in discussions like these.


mitchellmckain

The definition of life is too long to post here, check it out on the link. Why is this definition so long? It's easy: exceptions. Our planet houses such a biodiversity that everytime they make an all-included definition, a (new) species pops up from which we're sure it's an animal, but misses one key in the chain that makes it life. In order to make a correct definition it expands everytime, again and again.

the symptoms of life. If a supposed organism shows these signs, it's alive. So they say.


This definition of life is typical of Biology as an observational rather than theoretical science much like Astronomy which simply looks at what is out there, classifies them, and tries to understand them. The problem is that there no way to identify what features are merely indicental characteristics of life on this planet only.

But chaotic dynamics provides the mathematical foundations for a more theoretical definition of life as a particular kind of cyclical process which forms a kind of feedback loop that reinforces its own structure. It has been observed that such processes have the capacity to react to changes in the environment in a phenomena that resembles choosing called bifurcation which can lead to increasing diversity and complexity. The problem is that instead of making a sharp line between what is alive and what is not, instead it suggests more of a quantitative continuum from the less alive to the more alive. As a result, it should be of no surprise that according to this more theoretical definition viruses are definitely alive even though the quantitative measure of this life would be very low indeed. Its dependence on other life forms, although more extreme than most other life forms, is not unique, since in fact most life forms depend critically on the existence of other life forms.

webintern

So if I have this right now, say these cells within the body are generated, more or less by the body and these virus's simply transform or in some way change them to be like the virus, is that along the right lines?


I'm sorry if I had confused you. The phenomenon you describe above is more appropriate to prions, which transform other related proteins to become like them. Think of it like cult brainwashing. Each cult member brainwashes a victim to think and act similarly as the original member. Consequently, the victim transforms into another brainwasher who then seeks other victims. The concept of prions is virtually identical.

Viruses, on the other hand, are like parasites that enter the cell and exploit the cellular machinery for its own devious purposes: creating components to build new viruses. To put the scales into perspectives, let us for fun say that the cell is an automobile factory and the virus is Megatron (the Decepticon Transformer). Megatron cannot transform (excuse the pun) the factory into another Megatron. He, however, invades the factory and uses the machinery to create more Decepticons. This is analogous to how viruses invade and replicate within the cell.

The dilemma about viruses being considered as lifeforms, however, is that these viruses do not purposefully manipulate the cell by will or foreknowledge. Bacteria have receptors that help it identify where there are increasing gradients of nutrients. Viruses just "float" around until it accidentally "bumps" into a cell. If an interaction exists whereby the virus can enter the cell, it does; otherwise, it continues to "float" around. The individual virus does not mutate or adapt to unfavorable conditions. Viruses merely exist and replicate as a result of serial biochemical reactions. In the same way, computer viruses have a predefined pattern of invasion and replication. It is not a misnomer to call them viruses, because their existance and interactions are very similar to that of biologic viruses. So, this begs the question, are computer viruses alive?


My above points are not meant to serve as arguments in favor or against viruses being considered living organisms. They are merely intended to be food for thought. So, please don't start deconstructing my statements, because they are not meant to be points of debate.

Eternal_Bliss

The problem is with ourselves. We humans want to clarify all the things in this infinite Universe with our limited and arbitary approach. The approach which suits our purpose best,but which need not be correct. So there is no surprise that we find problem in classifing many of the things. As humans are also only a part of this huge framework called Universe. Though we are capable of logical reasoning unlike the animals we are not the masters of the Universe.

Chesso

What about Jellyfish? I'm not an expert but recent things (for some reason I remember) told me basicalyl that's what jellyfish also do.They have no control over where they go and what they do, they have no form of brain or anything like that.I'm pretty they are considered alive, errr are their behaviours and restrictions closely related?


webintern

True, jellyfish may not have "brains" in the traditional sense. Bacteria and fungi do not have brains either.Jellyfish still have a nervous system. They need food to survive, have for sexual reproduction (not that sexual differentiation is a criterion for being considered a living organism), possess limited mobility and defense mechanisms that react to its environment, etc.


Chesso

But basically the enviroment has the largest impact, a jelly fish can't even move of it's own free will..... it's enviroment chooses where it goes and ultimately what it does.Sounds a bit like this virus in a way eh?Besides the uhhh obvious more technical difference between them.


BLTF

The origins of modern viruses are not entirely clear, and there may not be a single mechanism of origin that can account for all viruses. As viruses do not fossilise well, molecular techniques have been the most useful means of hypothesising how they arose. Research in microfossil identification and molecular biology may yet discern fossil evidence dating to the Archean or Proterozoic eons. Two main hypotheses currently exist


4dsystems

.... guys what if you considered the case for computer viruses. In the computer world , they multiply, some even have surival insticts. Would you consider them alive???


DrK3055A

.... guys what if you considered the case for computer viruses. In the computer world , they multiply, some even have surival insticts. Would you consider them alive???

I would not consider them alive. I'll explain the reason.

I think that a system is alive, when it consist of hardware with embedded software inherent to the properties of the hardware (so if you change the structure or composition of such hardware, then the software changes aswell, in a sort of instrinsic coding). Also, this system must be able to hold a sequence of code that once is given raw material, system will generate by its own, at least one more functional hardware unit with functional embedded code. Not needed to be an exact replication, but might keep the most relevant features of the generator system, otherwise both systems would be different.

By this concept, viruses cannot be alive systems, because although they are pieces of software (genes) hardcoded in ADN (hardware), they lack of other hardware (proteins for replication) so they need to use the "replication plants" of other systems in order to keep their existence.

And computer viruses lack of any own hardware, they are just a conceptual matter given the analogy of some properties of real viruses and those pieces of computer code.

Furthermore, robots (at least by the current technology) cannot be considered as alive systems, because although they could own replication schemes to produce more robots from raw material, the code used for those schemes is independent of the hardware. That is, never matter what stuff the memory chip is built with, if you replace with other chip with the same code and function, but different technology (consider that chip as a black box), robot will function in the same fashion, but a real alive system function would have changed because of the substitution of an elementary hardware part. (hence, in alive systems, code is intrinsic to the hardware)

vhortex

.... guys what if you considered the case for computer viruses. In the computer world , they multiply, some even have surival insticts. Would you consider them alive???

 


this question will bring back to square one..

 

what are the given standards to know that something is alive?

 

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on my small point with regards to biological viruses.. they are not alive but merely a mutating factor for the cells..

 

they have existed for years and years much way before us.. the questions of evolution lies here.. do we evolve from virus like organism, if we can call them organism..

 

most viruses cannot be "activate" when it conditons are not meet.. domestic viruses have hard time in "activating" since the potential host have defense mechanism for them..

 

however when this virus strands can move by our modern man carrier into a new area with no domestic virus similar to this the carried one..

 

it can have a fresh source of host..

 

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as far as i am concern.. when a virus enters, [not infect on my point of view] a host.. it's Genetic Data (DNA or RNA) corrupted the host DNA and RNA into a pattern similar to its self.. i use similar since a virus do not really produce an exact copy of itself.. the resulting copy have genetic characteristics of its source.. that is why we have different types of viruses.. like we have thousand of common cold viruses..

 

this is also the reason why on virus discoveries.. the original carrier is the one being search for not to tame the virus but to exact a raw copy of the virus and compare it to the resulting virus.. this carrier also now have the antibodies to deactive the new strain of virus that originated from this living carrier.. if the carrier do not posses certain deactivating traits.. then it wont be a carrier. since it will die out..

 

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computer viruses on the other hand falls on a paradox..

 

people say that artificial intellegence and robots are the next stage of life..

 

then if it was.. that we have a next stage of life.. does that mean that there are other stages of life past before our current stage of life.. we are back to stage one.. are biological viruses alive..

 

on this argument about AI and robots as being alive.. there are alot of people want to say that they are not alive.. on the contrary.. they all believe, well most people do, that they will be the next generation.. most have created articles of man and machine being merged together.. a humanoid machine thinking like us, feeling and breathing.. living and existing.. thinking..

 

on the listed traits.. the thing that have been considered as the major addition of machines being the next generation is that they can soon think using AI..

 

this create a paradox again... if the main category or characteristic of being considered to be alive is the ability to think.. then we have thousands of dead thingamagigs in out taxonomy tree..

 

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the problem therefore is not the argument of being a virus an alive or not thing or organism.. the problem is our way of trying to describe an infinity with a finite understanding.. this is the common error that we are commiting over and over again..

 

this question will bring questions toward the accuracy of the definition of "life"


DrK3055A

the problem therefore is not the argument of being a virus an alive or not thing or organism.. the problem is our way of trying to describe an infinity with a finite understanding.. this is the common error that we are commiting over and over again..

 

this question will bring questions toward the accuracy of the definition of "life"

 


Maybe the problem is that human beings need to find a reason for us and other organisms showing complex and dynamic behaviour, so they [we] can be sorted in another group than stones, metals, etc, because such materials are too much little things compared to the "self-named living beings" importance.

webintern

The definition of "life" ultimately rests on a series of criteria (however manipulable) determined by an expert panel. These then become conventions used in scientific inquiry and communication. For all anybody cares, our individual opinions of what is living or not holds little bearing outside our own social circles. Consider the prior debates about whether Pluto is or is not a planet. Definitions are arbitrary and can change with time.


mitchellmckain

The definition of "life" ultimately rests on a series of criteria (however manipulable) determined by an expert panel. These then become conventions used in scientific inquiry and communication. For all anybody cares, our individual opinions of what is living or not holds little bearing outside our own social circles. Consider the prior debates about whether Pluto is or is not a planet. Definitions are arbitrary and can change with time.


Not ultimately really, but only because our science of life, biology, is an observational science like astronomy rather than a theoretical one. But the new "science of Chaos" has the potential for changing this, for I believe it provides a mathematical model for the basic process from which all life is derived, providing the basis for a theoretical definition of life. But one of the conceptual changes that we will have to accept is that life is far more of a quantitative thing than previously thought. In other words some things are much more alive than others.

Weather patterns have the basic features of this life process, it is only that the measure of this life is exceedingly low. Likewise, viruses have the same features which although the measure of their life is immensely greater than that of weather patterns, it is still fairly low.

webintern

"Life" in itself is an arbitrary designation that has been used to characterize or categorize "objects". There is no intrinsic property that constitutes this abstract concept. Even if we were to distill the current notion of a "living organism" into a fundamental series of biophysical properties or mathematical models, the essence of "life" still rests on an artificial designation of which sets of properties (be it physical or mathematical) characterize living organisms.


DrK3055A

We should not argue about the name of the rose. Life is just a name, but an abstract concept aswell (we know something is alive because it shares some "not every" properties with us; associating patterns is an intrinsic feature of our nature, and the basis for our inteligence), and because of that is hard and nearly impossible to define or quantize. Is like whether we try to define what a fractal is. You know that a system is fractal defined because it share some properties with other fractals, but it may happen that two set of fractals can be different each other, so it cannot be established a common criteria or definition. Our neural systems tend to sort things by their features, and maybe there are contradictory items (that is, non "linear or direct classification") that can't be sorted by this criteria. We can always find counterexamples that fit any definition for life, still we would set them into the nonliving objects bag.


mitchellmckain

"Life" in itself is an arbitrary designation that has been used to characterize or categorize "objects". There is no intrinsic property that constitutes this abstract concept. Even if we were to distill the current notion of a "living organism" into a fundamental series of biophysical properties or mathematical models, the essence of "life" still rests on an artificial designation of which sets of properties (be it physical or mathematical) characterize living organisms.


I very much beg to differ. I think we have an almost instinctive recognition of life. We see movement and in the investigation of the cause of this movement we make a great distinction between movement which is caused by life and that which is not. When life is the cause, our search for the cause of movement gets stuck in the complexities of living organisms and their internal workings and in the end there is the sense of something that moves for its own purpose quite apart from the direct influence of the environment. On a superficial level this is described by the term "emergent properties", but I believe that when we did deeper we find a fundamental difference in process.


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