Life is Data: Survival Instincts And Their Role In Preserving Life
All too often comes the subject of meaning of life. As human beings that can envision our own death, we often make the mistake to assume that life has some kind of meaning and thus we continue by speculating the parameters upon which our values emerge. Thing is, life has no other meaning other than preserving random data with specific fitnessattached to them. In biology we call those data survival instincts. Instincts that have proven to be helpful for a species survival are passed down the genetic line. Based on a given environment and over extended periods of time, some instincts prevail upon others and life continues to go on.
The meaning that we chose to give as human beings mainly stems from tradition or rather from data that has been passed on to us that is also camouflaged in other form of data. Think of the human meaning in life like an onion where in the outer layers there is religion, family, ethics and so on and in the middle there is a core instinct that binds the whole thing together. This is how everything becomes central in our existence. Survival instincts exist whether or not we chose to acknowledge them and they are indifferent to human values and constructs.
It is important to understand that everything in life is about data. I would go as far as to say that if there is such thing as meaning in life, the is nothing other than preserving data. Data themselves get to be maintained through survival instincts — or better put — behaviors that help a species survive. The issue about the meaning of life emerges mainly when people try to find something meaningful to hold on to, something to hang on, a set of data that justified their existence. It is part of the human existential angst that emerged as soon as we developed brains that could understand that someday we will cease to be. It is also the main reason philosophy is still a thing.
Religions construct their own ethics and practises, camouflaging the point of preservation through rituals than ensure the belief in something greater. Some philosophers like to create narratives and constructs that bend the meaning of words in order to satisfy their point of view — that is — that the meaning of life is something more than soulless biology. They both come short on the same premises because after we strip down what humans believe to be true, we end up with raw data. Our core beliefs, our values, our sense of ethics, everything is just random data that struggles to maintain itself against another set of data. At the core there are only survival instincts, data that program all the layers of the onion towards one mission: More data. Given enough more diversified data, we get more and more species. Life goes on by building antifragility.
Therefore, a survival instinct is nothing more but a generic behaviour that is coded in DNA, a set of core data. It is constantly changing as the species evolves in order to accommodate itself. DNA cannot know which species it belongs to because it is only data after all with a specific function. It's process involves transferring traits to the next generation. Part of how this is happening is through epigenetic processes. In other words a species' DNA is not fixed and neither are the instincts that come along with it. In biology a survival instinct is called formally Fixed Action Pattern and it has be studied in great detail across all species.
In the same way we can't study the generic meaning of water. The assumption in nonsensical. Instead, we can study water that belongs to lake A, in country B, during the months of X in respect to substances Y. In the same respect, we cannot study the concept of an instinct. For that we need to specify the species, the environment and the hypothesis of our study. Zoologists do this all the time. Many couch philosophers fail to understand this because they lack knowledge about biology and the scientific method upon which survival instincts are narrowed and studied. This is also part of the reason why Stephen Hawking said "philosophy is dead". Too much talk, very little application.
If I took a picture before a day Mary turned 10 years old, she wouldn't appear different the day after. The difference would minimal to the naked eye. The division of when Mary is 9 and when she is 10 is a social construct that serves specific contexts of communication. It cannot be a factual representation of reality. This is also how instincts across species work. Life on our planet has existed for billions of years. When we observe the instincts of a species today we observe a snapshot of something that has long existed. We chose to separate the instincts for that specific species for practical reasons — e.g. for studying.
This is how the survival instinct of needing oxygen is much the same and carried out for almost all species even if we have so many variations across species. Other instincts, such as the one of breeding get more diverse depending of each species and the environment it is found. For example, in our species the survival instincts of procreation evolved through such mechanisms as the one of love, lust, even book writing. Nature is indifferent to how the instinct express itself as long as the carrier can pass the information down the genetic line.
Just because an instinct serves one member of a species and not another it does not mean the instinct does not exist. It merely means that the instinct sometimes rewards the organism and sometimes it doesn't. Which brings us to the next point. Nature developed species in groups to ensure propagation in case instincts do not work for some members, not because they don't exist.
An instinct is a behaviour that characterizes generically a species under a specific environment, not a fixed tangible thing like a stone. The oversimplification is rather silly. Group behavior of species is studied, well, in groups and not by taking each organism's case into a philosophical rampage.
This form of individual analysis in respect to the non-existence of instincts is rather an attempt to anthropomorphize each member of a species as something unique that has values, so thereafter the individual can make a case that each person has objective values.
There is no other meaning for Life other than preservation of data. Preservation of data occurs through the multifaceted mechanisms of instincts. A philosopher might choose not pass some data through DNA but he will do it through books and articles. Even if the philosopher suicides he would still have left a trail of data behind him.
DNA is just a form of data transference as much as it is language or computer code. This is how every single species on earth shares some aspects of the DNA as the first fish that swam the oceans. Some survival instincts are strong, some weaker. If you would like a living proof of falsifying this hypothesis then look no further than antibiotics. Humans have developed specific substances that go against the survival instincts of the organisms we want to keep away from us. For some this has worked, and hence why the humans species lives on. In some cases this doesn't work and resulted into making superbugs, aka antibiotic resistant organisms that can kill a human. Their instincts evolved beyond our own expectation.
Ayn Rand said once "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." The reality is that if we strip down everything we know about life and its meaning it comes down to data and the instinctual mechanisms that these data develop in order to preserve themselves. The variation in species ensures that life goes on no matter what. The ever-changing instincts are nothing but tools that enable this preservation and continuation of those data. Our religions, schools of thought, families, beliefs, values, accomplishments are nothing but elaborate constructs around the point of preserving data that ensure survival of themselves.