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J_Thomas comments on Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions - Less Wrong

71 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 August 2007 10:27PM

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Comment author: J_Thomas 08 September 2007 04:01:24PM 1 point [-]

I don't think "elan vital" needed to be a curiousity stopper. It could be a description.

Some things are alive. Some are not. Live things are different, they do things that dead things do not. It's a difference that's worth noticing. If "elan vital" is a synonym for "alive" and not an explanation, then it's useful. It doesn't have to stop you from asking what the difference is.

Urea is not alive. That was a red herring. But it suggested a new idea, one that will probably be realised someday soon. In theory there's nothing about cells that we can't understand in detail. Probably within 50 years we'll be able to create a living cell from nonliving components. If not 50 years, certainly within 200 years. We're very close.

Comment author: pnrjulius 29 May 2012 03:47:47AM 2 points [-]

Not 50 years. Craig Venter did it already in 2010. So it took 3 years to do what you thought it would take 50.

Comment author: hylleddin 25 August 2013 03:33:22AM 2 points [-]

He didn't actually synthesize a whole living thing. He synthesized a genome and put it into a cell. There's still a lot of chemical machinery we don't understand yet.