In which Hank attempts to define what life is, argues that Google is in fact alive (albeit poorly) and then proves that individual lives have no (or extremely little) value for their own sake...with mouthwash.
To be clear:
1. I am not arguing that Google should be treated like a sentient life form. If Google is alive, it's alive the same way a virus is. The fact that it's alive does not change its ethical status. It is very interesting though.
2. While I don't value the individual lives of the bacteria in my mouth, I value "life" tremendously and believe that one bacteria in a world otherwise devoid of life would be the most precious thing on that world. But seeing as how there are trillions of bacteria within four feet of me right now, I'm not particularly concerned with their welfare. So "life" is not a good qualification for "value."
3. I have done some further research and it appears that the Mrs. Gren thing is not so much criteria for life (though they are often referenced as criteria for life) it's more like "properties" of life...as we know it. I'm less interested in describing life than I am in determining what makes one thing alive and another thing not alive. Describing what we've got is easy, deciding the status of something that may (or may soon) exist is an entirely different matter.
4. I'm very interested in people's thoughts about about the "want" theory, though, obviously, this is a loose definition of "want." Does a plant really "want" to turn toward the sun...no. What I'm saying is more "reacts to it's surroundings in order to fulfill its needs." But "Life Wants" just sounds so much better. The question of whether Google (or fire, for that matter) is reacting to its needs in order to fulfill its needs is an interesting one, but I don't really think that computer programs "want." They don't have needs, they have instructions....but how different is that from the instructions that bacteria have from their genes?
Finally, Google does satisfy Schrodinger's criteria of increasing order using available energy. I think Schrodinger's criteria is, in fact, better than mine since you can't argue that fire meets it (as fire increases entropy) and it makes me feel as if Google is, in fact, alive.
However, using this criteria, one could also argue that an automated factor that turns plastic into toys is also alive, as it would be using energy to decrease entropy. If it is truly autonomous though, that almost seems as alive as a virus to me.