|Theaesta, an exoplanet. Would we recognize its life?|
The complete description of the planet follows:
Theaesta, a Planet, a Lifeform, an Intelligence. Imagined by Tim Holmes
From the outset there is great diversity within biotic systems as the winds and currents allow the spread of slime molds and simple life around the planet's oceans and wet surface areas. But as lifeforms diversify they find an advantage in small more or less uniform colonies which are resilient enough to survive when threatened by 'poisons' from outside their indigenous environments. These colonies introduce a new dimension of growth because they are different from each other and so possess complimentary characteristics. While each has a skill designed for its home environment, it benefits from cooperation with others who thrive in other environments. Over the next 2 billion years these simple organisms mutate into countless forms, often forming alliances and isomorphs to more fully utilize the resources around them. However, the strong gravity and very high winds prevent the growth of organisms beyond the size of a few cells.
- burrowing to survivable depths and using heat to metabolize the surrounding minerals,
- building protective shells, pods and shelters against harsh conditions, and
- constructing cells that can enclose more favorable environments, such as for sloughing off excess heat in boiling seas to maintain cool enough temperatures for cell function.
- burrowing into soils to find environments heated by mantle activity heated by tidal forces.
- living in light cycles, gathering light to energize metabolism when it is available and going into dormancy when it is not (during periods of orbital freezing).
- Forming communities of intra-connected organisms live on the heat generated by other species that operate as in 1. and 2.
The process of differentiation is the secret to the formation of an eventual super intelligence. As lifeforms become more varied they find advantage in small distinct creatures. Each unicellular creature has a distinct advantage of being able to develop a perspective different from others. This creates the possibility for synapses as one creature communicates with another with a different perspective from its own. Thereby both creatures benefit from the other's differences. (This makes Earthly biology seem terribly primitive in comparison. Earth creatures tend not to cooperate but rather compete with each other for scarce resources. Although creatures like humans host microorganisms to help with their own digestion and other functions, for the most part their use of other species amounts to enslaving them for their own very narrow and immediate purposes. This results in a lack of foresight and the opportunity for cooperation that would incorporate perspectives different from their own to increase their own awareness and intelligence to address changes that might come in the future.)
Unlike an environment of isolated species competing to survive in an environment of scarce resources, Theaesta never evolves to develop competition for resources. Because the environment is constantly changing cooperation is much more valuable as a strategy than competition. Although there is competition between individuals of the same species, evolution selects for cooperation with other species, creating a kind of “reverse tribalism” where different skills are more valuable than those of one's own species. Therefore since the entire evolution of the planet depends on successful collaboration between diverse lifeforms,cooperation is selected for and mutation becomes common. Life on Theaesta depends on the “attitude” that every species different from itself offers an advantage to dealing with environmental extremes that it cannot handle on it's own. Cooperation therefor becomes the life-strategy for the entire planet.
Because the environment is not conducive to large body forms, life tends to evolve smaller rather than larger. There is a great proliferation of nano creatures that are selected for since on the nanoscale the environment has fewer restrictions. As widely varied as species become, so they increase the resiliency and capacity of the entire community to thrive. Since each makes a living in a different environment, by collaborating the whole community becomes more robust and resilient. This capacity becomes the Genesis for the growth of super intelligent, solar system-wide life form.
But on Theaesta organisms thrive by collaboration from the start in order to take fuller advantage of resources, allowing for communication on a scale that earthly biology is not familiar with, where creatures can communicate at many levels with many different species at once. The only way to conceive of such a network of life forms is as a single planetary organism. As such it is able to adapt to any environment it encounters and to use the advantages of the resources available with those conditions presented by the changes in the environment.
This allows for the existence of the kind of life form that is a quantum leap beyond biology. On Earth, much of the resources available are not used by life. But on Theaesta the resources are used to such an efficient degree that the entire planet essentially is covered with life forms; it is essentially a terrestrial planet covered with a “skin” of life. In fact such cooperation allows life to build up in layers from some distance above the surface to some distance beneath the liquid oceans and even into the solid rock surface. In this case the organism can use any and all resources available to it for life. This means that there is essentially no surface on the planet that is not inhabited by a layer of more or less thickness depending on the richness of the resources available. This allows for not only the immediate use of resources but the ability to anticipate changes in the future and so to transfer, store and remember resources that will be used when the environment next changes.
Theaesta develops the capacity to engineer the environment for various purposes. Just as hollows are etched into rock, primitive sponge structures could be formed for protection from the sun or wind or other environmental obstacles. Over time the creature develops the capacity to utilize every resource in the environment. Theaesta architecture is that of a kind that we could not imagine. It might be used to amplify communication over great distances, to develop sophisticated art, or build pressurized pods or farms or capsules containing resources like a stocked liferaft that– upon an impact blasting material into space, could be used to colonize every bit of matter blown up in the resulting explosion.
What we have is an ultra-responsive planetary organism that incorporates incredible ability to change, adapt, and take advantage of any and all environmental changes. In fact on those rare occasions when the planet is bombarded by a stray astroid the result is not a mass extinction but little more than a body wound to the planetary organism. Particles generated by the collision become spaceships for the organisms as those particles are blasted into space; and so the neighborhood is seated with life, leaving a solar system of three kinds of material: burning star, “black” matter (uninhabited) and “red” matter (inhabited by Theaesta).
Eventually the solar system becomes mostly red matter as Theaesta inhabits all the space debris that it encounters. The resulting life ranges from fairly simple lifeforms on specks of dust and rock to extremely complex ones that inhabited large gas giant planets. It might be that over billions of years a cloud of red material that coalesced into a planet might have life even in deep layers of the mantle, living off heat and chemical interactions between mineral salts. There may even be architecture built into the planet from its inception. This could raise the possibility of a planet that is actually designed by fiesta to most efficiently or beautifully use the coming together of the planet for its own life and enjoyment.
To Theaesta all matter from grains of sand to planetoids are seen as resources. Whereas to us an asteroid may look like lifeless rock floating through space, to Theaesta it is a warehouse of rich resources with waves of energy bathing the rock from every direction.
Theaesta could grow to be as large as the solar system, with each element of red matter being in instant communication with every other through morphic resonance. This allows Theaesta to communicate with a red matter asteroid hurtling toward its star. It could think about how to seed its star as the asteroid approached, and might even be able to adapt to make use of the newer higher energy conditions it encounters there, who's to know?
Theaesta's intelligence is nothing like ours. Though there is morphic resonance on a molecular level, individual creatures have no awareness or consciousness. Self-reflection only develops on a mass scale, as an outgrowth of the exchange of information across the face of the planet. This intelligence does not proceed out of individuation and so finds its apogee not in devices or communication with other solar systems but in responding to ever-expanding natural challenges it encounters. Though it cannot be said to understand time or possess forthought, Theaesta is able to respond almost instantaneously to environmental changes, a kind of capability we can only dream of. Rather its memory allows for an extremely flexible response that seems super-biological to us creatures imprisoned in individual consciousness.
Theaesta might in fact decide to play God by creating life forms of its own imagining. Using some of its planets in the habitable zone it might create simple water-based biology and other life structures that could produce bodies of all kinds, large and small, fit for the environments of those planets. Such creative activity would no doubt provide endless interest, not to mention humor!
Composed of creatures whose lives span only hours, Theaesta's experience of time is exponentially faster than ours, making something like a falling rock more akin to human experience of planetary motion. We would see the lifeforms clear from underneath the impact area just before the rock hit and perhaps even colonize each of the shards as they scattered. Their experience of time is so rapid that we could share only a few common experiences, like lightning flashes or impact explosions.
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