Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
The Function of Growth
The construction of form is, of course, only an aspect of growth. The basic question is: why do beings grow? What is the goal of growth? Why arenít we born as adults? Wouldnít it be simpler if we were born like adults and had to worry only about reproducing? We have to protect and nurture our offspring, which results in a great waste of energies and in lower survival rates. A species that did not need to grow would be highly efficient. Why do living things grow instead of being built?
†There might be a few reasons. The first one has to do with complexity. It would require a huge amount of specification to assemble a body, cell by cell, whereas "growth" is a process whereby each component of the system helps specify the system as a whole. One needs very little to start, and there is virtually no limit to how far one can go.
A second advantage is that a system that is built from scratch is not as resilient, as easy to repair, as a system that has developed through a number of stages. Because growth is an on-going never-ending process, most faults (such as wounds, cuts, fractures) get repaired naturally. The system is tolerant to most faults and will still operate. In an artifact, most faults disable the entire system (a mere flat tire is enough to stop a very expensive vehicle) and may even destroy it (a mere washer was enough to blow up a space shuttle).
Finally, a growing being better integrates with the environment. Because growth depends on the surrounding matter as well as the genetic program (i.e., we eat plants and animals, we breathe air, etc.) the resulting body is better equipped to cope with the challenges posed by our environment. In a sense, there are no "unpredictable" events, all possible accidents have been implicitly predicted in the way our body grows.
Then the complementary question: why does growth stop? What is so special about our adulthood that makes it the terminal point of growth, after which decay begins?† Why does growth end and fade into decay? When does decay really begin and why at that point rather than at any other point? And when does it really end? We know when a body is created, because all of a sudden we can see it and touch it, but we donít really know when a body is destroyed, because it fades away slowly. Needless to say, things would be even easier if organisms did not decay, if we just lived forever...
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