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Old 02-18-2012, 06:36 PM
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Default Evolution, Immunolgy and Religion in James Cameronís Avatar

ok .. out there on my random searches on Na'vi Language .. i came across an older blog .. but the thoughts this individual has with himself, is certainly interesting and does raise some good questions for discussion.

Evolution, Immunolgy and Religion in James Cameron’s Avatar | Naked Sky Entertainment Blog

I've edited here for discussion ... (he prefaces with his expectations of the movie, rambling, but as he starts to watch it, he begins to ask himself.)

But then, I started thinking about how weird it was that while we humans evolved over billions of years, and these other aliens evolved over billions of years, our evolution and their evolution took almost the same amount of time to reach basically the same place. (When I say evolution, I’m referring to the continual increase in complexity of organization and computation power- both biological and technological.) Sure, the Navi seemed to be roughly in the stone age, or more accurately the 1800s Native American age, and the humans were in the 22nd century, clone the aliens, quantum entanglement phase. Basically, considering we both evolved up from nothing but gas, that’s quite a coincidence that we were at roughly the same stage. But, then, something like the anthropomorphic principle beat me down again- if they’d evolved much more than we did, they would have crushed the humans, and if they’d only evolved to semi-intelligent dinosaur thingies then the humans would have crushed them- either way Fox wouldn’t have funded the movie. Call it the cinemamorphic principle.

But man, then they totally flipped evolution on its head when Ripley was like “there’s 10^4 connections in each tree and 10^12 trees.” Holy crap, the planet has evolved, the singularity is coming! It’s not a new idea (my wife turned to me and said “It’s Jane!” ) but it was pretty neat to see somebody thinking that way in a big budget movie. The whole planet had evolved and figured out how to very efficiently turn plant matter into computation. Okay, this had the potential to really start exploiting matter for computation at an alarming rate, but it left it very open to attack- you are a really really smart bunch of smart trees, but how are you going to protect yourself from any environmental or non-environmental dangers? Well duh, with a really bad ass bunch of blue hunter dudes who think you’re a god.

And that’s where I got totally distracted- how interesting that these Navi, who think they’re communing with their ancestors and partaking in mystical experiences, are really just the evolution of this tree brain’s immune system. For a while now, the Pandora brain hadn’t been mucked with by foreign invaders, so these T cells and B cells and macrophages were chilling out minding their own business (well apparently Neytiri’s great great grandfather faced a similar threat, but that only happened 5 times since the time of songs or something like that ). But now that the humans are here, the immune system kickd into high gear- so high that it actually managed to assimilate one of the foreign bodies, and turn it against its crew. Now that’s an efficient immune system.

But that begs the question about which came first, the Chicken or the Pandora Brain? Did the tree entity and the Navi evolve in parallel, in a symbiotic relationship? Or did the existence of the tree brain create a world that selected for the evolution of the Navi? I find the latter hard to believe, as something probably would have killed the tree brain first- also, what pressures selected for its evolution? I find it much more likely that the Navi evolved first ( since the possibility of the evolution of such an organism is already demonstrated by our own evolution ) and that they in turn created an environment which allowed for the evolution of the tree brain, by fighting off foreign invaders and protecting the environment. However, just because that would have allowed a safe environment, it doesn’t mean it significantly increased environmental pressure such that a planet sized tree brain would evolve in the first place- what natural selection could result in that?

Being a human, the only selective force that seems plausible to me would be… people. A technological society, much like the one in which we already live. It seems only logical that thousands of years ago, the sentient inhabitants of Pandora were much more technological, with a vastly more complex, planet scale Internet than the one we already have. For Cameron’s sake, let’s call it SkyNet. And SkyNet ran all of Pandora and there were wars between the organics and machines (just like always happens) and SkyNet gathered enough computation ability to realize that better than fighting the organic life, would be to make the organic life worship it as a god. So it wiped out most of the organic life (heck maybe it wiped out all of it!) and then made sure to interface with anything intelligent that evolved just enough to portray the image that it was a god. It replaced inorganic parts with organic parts (because those are easier for organics to love and because they’re much more robust and redundant when it comes to fighting off the elements) and maintained the planetwide network it had established so that it could continue evolving towards more and more computational power. And in this light, the Navi evolved, with their “magical” bio interfacing hair doodads, and their deep respect for nature and their actual communication with the intelligence of their ancestors- selected for by SkyNet, selected for by human-like organics, selected for by physics. All completely plausibly. Which is why this movie should have been called Terminator 5.

By the time I’d thought through all of that, the movie was over, and I had to go back to work, but it did raise a bunch of interesting questions: Is Pandora the evolutionary future of Earth, with a planet sized brain and an organic immune system to support it? Or is there already a mega-intelligence out there masquerading as a god in an attempt to have us protect it? Or what’s even the difference between a god and an intelligence so vast it can’t be fully comprehended by those that worship it? But most importantly, will Cameron consider any of this when he makes a sequel to Avatar? I dunno, but here’s hoping.


Sooooooo .... i'm still digesting this
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Last edited by Mika; 02-18-2012 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 02-18-2012, 07:07 PM
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I'm sorry, this has nothing to do with your post, but...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mika View Post
...when Ripley was...
made me laugh.

More on-topic : Remember, planets themselves don't evolve, and computation on its own is not evolutionary advantageous.
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Old 02-19-2012, 03:20 PM
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They also can't spell Na'vi (and another case of 'Planet' /headdesk)

Interesting enough read, I guess, but I'm not sure about some of their conclusions - the Na'vi have not met humans before and I would personally think that any other first contact would have remained in memory (and indeed, that species would have noticed Earth ), and lymphocytes are not sentient, intelligent or even capable of many ancillary functions. If it worked in a similar manner, a response would have been prompted on arrival and not after a key event a long time in.

There's no particular indication about relative age of the species other than that Na'vi society is older than human, which has no relevance to proto-forms and genetic ancestors, especially when you realise that humans have only consistently had at least one civilisation extant for about the last 2500 years or so.

'More evolved' is a fallacy - there's no such thing, evolution doesn't have a destination, real life isn't pokemon , there's no set 'end form' that will be achieved given enough time . The only way 'more evolved' could ever really be said truthful is referring to the length or a species' traceable ancestry, which is longer in some than others.

The question of chronology is a lot more interesting, but having one separate to the other would almost certainly preclude such a degree of symbiosis. The old 'chicken or egg' question is actually answerable - eggs existed long before chickens, including ones from closely related species and therefore, if a specific set of criteria was defined to be a chicken, the egg that the first acceptable chicken came from.
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Old 02-19-2012, 09:38 PM
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Default fascinating!

The person who Mika quoted in the first post seems to be operating on several assumptions:
the first few have been pointed out by Human No More.
Another would be that the vegetation IS a brain. It seems to function as a brain, as per Toktor Grace. But even if it relays electrical impulses, is it sentient? In Cameron's story, Pandora is referred to as the Child of Ewya. It can then be surmised that this entity, being unseen, has chosen to communicate with its entire creation through synaptic energy transfer. The planet (OK, moon) being the Child of Eywa, would then act as a biologic computer,conveying info but sentient, in and of itself.
Also; my high school biology teacher told of a study where fine electrodes were taped to the leaves of various potted plants. (galvinic response, like a lie detector test) and the electrical impulses were measured on a particular scale. The impulses generated from the plants while lovely music was played, were relatively low. But when a technician hurled a potted plant to the floor, its transmissions went wild, but so did every other plants response in the room.
Given that, I have also measured my own electromagnetic response using an ohmmeter. I can change that. I think it is called biofeedback. I had fun playing with that for a while , but hey, I'm an artist. I was watching the needle dance on the dial. I wasn't MEASURING anything!
Therefore, if a sentient being had created Pandora and all its creatures and the Na'vi, and chose to sustain its creation, it would be a logical explanation that it would seek to communicate a sense of balance among its creations to ensure its longevity. ATEYO
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