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A Random Location
1. Somewhere, deep in the vastness of space, a group of eight planets and a scattering of moons, orbiting around a comparatively mundane yellow dwarf star, have attracted the UCC’s attention. Together, the whole collection amounts to nothing more than a very ordinary planetary system. Nevertheless, this particular system is harbouring something very special. On one of those eight planets, the UCC has detected something rather odd.
2. The UCC has seen odd things before. It witnessed most of the formation of the universe, and has seen countless occurrences that have been strange, unexpected, and often magnificent. By comparison, in most every way, this discovery seems quite unremarkable; nevertheless, the UCC knows it has discovered something… momentous.
3. Initially, the subject of the UCC’s intrigue seems unimpressive, barely noticeable; yet on investigation it proves profoundly significant. Until now, every event the UCC has witnessed has been the result of random interactions between various forms of matter. Gravitational, electromagnetic, or chemically based processes, all of which have resulted in the merging of energy, the depletion of energy, or energy absorption. Invariably, each and every event has been a logically predictable process that has involved absolutely no purpose or intent.
4. What the UCC is currently witnessing is breaking that trend. Tiny, independent entities are undertaking brief activities for seemingly no other reason than because they choose to. It is something entirely new and exciting.
5. Predictability is something the UCC has grown to expect. Its experiences so far have clearly indicated that no matter how complex the interaction between inanimate objects may be, given sufficient information and processing power, the outcome can be calculated. Here, however, in this isolated location, the UCC is observing actions that are neither complex, logical, nor predictable. They are apparently starting, changing, and stopping, for no obvious reason at all.
1. The planet on which these strange events are occurring is plentiful. It has an abundance of chemicals and base elements, the temperature is moderate, and there is a balanced source of light from the nearby star, making the environment bright, energetic, and resource laden.
2. At any given moment, there are billions of simultaneous chemical and elemental interactions occurring, all of which are quite ordinary. However, occasionally, when a precise collection of specific chemicals and gasses come together, they cause a series of inexplicable processes to occur. Short bursts of spontaneous electrochemical activities that are triggering entirely irrational actions.
3. During those brief but glorious moments, the tiny entities are behaving in the strangest way, and almost wantonly defying logic.
4. The UCC is intrigued, and wants to know more. It is the first time it has witnessed events that while seemingly random and unnecessary, demonstrate clear signs of independent intent. The question is: how, and why, are they happening.
5. When the UCC investigates, it discovers within those tiny entities, a series of electrochemical processes are creating impulses, which in turn are triggering physical activity. Distinct functions triggering physical actions. Although the events are crude and unsophisticated, they are clearly demonstrating the fundamental inception of independent behaviour.
6. The implications are incredible; they are the first clear indication that independent behaviour may be possible within the physical universe. It is a major discovery, and one the UCC cannot risk being destroyed should the surrounding conditions suddenly change.
7. Unbeknown to the UCC, it is observing the emergence of life. Simple life; barely passable as life, but life nevertheless.
1. The UCC is amazed… and a little confused. To its knowledge, it hasn’t played any part in the sudden appearance of these new entities. It didn’t even know such things could exist, but it does accept that logic would suggest if the ingredients are present and the conditions are suitable, if it can happen, at some point, it probably will.
2. As the UCC watches the entities appear and disappear, like a myriad of tiny randomly flashing lights, it notes how the lifespan of each one is pitifully short. They are small, weak, and extremely vulnerable. They have no purpose, and the process by which they come into existence is ridiculously random and unreliable. Nevertheless, the incredible potential they hold fascinates the UCC. They are unlike anything else it has encountered, anywhere in the universe.
1. The UCC is certain these fragile new entities, just tiny specks of independent activity, are of great importance. They have the potential to play a significant role in universal development. A potential that may become the one thing that has so far been missing… a reason for the universe to exist. But if they are to survive, they must be nurtured.
2. The UCC decides to undertake that responsibility. From here on, it will focus its efforts on ensuring their safety, a process that will begin by stabilising what is currently an entirely random and ridiculously haphazard way of springing into existence.
3. The UCC is aware: if it is to intervene, it must be cautious. Previous experience has shown how dire the consequences of interfering in the physical universe can be; but at least this will not be retrospective change. In fact, it won’t be change at all, it will be guidance given in the Absolute Present Moment, with no risk of creating a rift in time. It will be a form of engineering, and an exciting new territory for the UCC to explore.
1. Many aspects of the UCC are incredible. The scope of its focus is immense. It is as vast as the universe, yet it can zoom its attention in with subatomic precision. But such precision has its limitations. Its ability to directly influence activity within the physical realm is surprisingly limited. It can only instigate change by altering the behaviour of individual particles on a quantum level, and that seems pitifully slow. The difference in scale between the two realms is unimaginable. To make even the simplest change in the physical realm, requires incredible effort on a subatomic level. No matter how quickly it works, the universe is in constant flux, meaning as it completes a task, almost immediately, that task begins to recede into the past as the universe evolves and modifies. It is a tedious and highly volatile process that can easily turn unpredictable and spontaneously spread at an exponential rate. In order to maintain any degree of control, the UCC must always exercise extreme care.
2. The program the UCC is about to undertake, will have to be carefully planned. The first thing it must do, is learn exactly what is happening. So, it waits until a new entity appears, then using its omnipresent ability, it looks back in time to the precise moment the entity was created.
3. It repeats the process many times, watching closely as each unpredictable and spontaneous emergence begins and ends. Tiny electrochemical sparks of life, short bursts of activity occurring on the most fundamental level; so slight they are barely detectable. The lifecycle of each one is invariably short, usually ending when either an external force destroys the cell’s structure, or its source of energy runs out. It is irrelevant, because during the brief moment of its existence, each entity, a mere cluster of microscopic ingredients, is unquestionably demonstrating independent behaviour.
4. The UCC knows it has discovered the essence of life. It is also aware that as much as it is miraculous, it is currently nothing more than a fortunate combination of components in the right place, under the right circumstances, at just the right time.
1. The combination of elements required to successfully produce a single entity, is intensely precise, meaning the occurrences are rare. They wouldn’t happen at all if there wasn’t such an abundance of raw material and chance encounters; and even then, when the elements and circumstances are precisely right, the vast majority still fail. The UCC has expectantly watched a million examples… a billion examples, that have all seemed perfectly ideal, yet have failed to ignite the all-important spark of life. Life is obviously quite particular.
2. Nevertheless, when it happens, when the delicately precise combination of molecules is one hundred percent perfect, a tiny spark of life ignites and initiates a cascade of self-perpetuating actions and reactions that are entirely independent.
3. During those brief and fleeting moments, as primitive as the tiny electrical impulses may be, there is something wonderful, because the UCC can sense, the entities are alive.
Improving the Process
1. Now that the UCC knows precisely what is required to convert inanimate ingredients into living entities, it can turn its attention to studying how it might logically improve and perfect the process.
2. The UCC continues to watch until it notices an entity survive an exceptionally long time. When it investigates why, it discovers that, quite by chance, the activity has been protected by a membrane of surrounding matter, dying only when it runs out of available energy.
3. The UCC goes back to the moment when the entity initially forms and makes a few minor adjustments to ensure it has more energy available.
4. The experiment is successful. The activity is protected inside the membrane, and the additional energy allows it to live much longer.
Cells of Life
1. Using the same process of trial and error, the UCC continues to refine the design of the developing cells. Instead of loading them with an abundance of energy, the UCC engineers a system that uses the central star’s radiant energy to convert molecules from the surrounding environment into fuel and incorporates it in each new cell, vastly increasing efficiency and greatly extending the entity’s life span.
2. The modifications are improving cell structure and efficiency, but the methods of creating and proliferating life are still far from ideal. With each improvement, cells are becoming increasingly intricate. Most now contain complex molecules and proteins, and they require in excess of 100 trillion atoms. Consequently, despite the UCC’s capabilities and improved techniques, it is becoming increasingly difficult and intensely demanding to regularly construct cells using only subatomic processes. A physical system of self-assembly is required.
3. By using instructions compatible with the naturally occurring electrochemical impulses, the UCC creates an exacting program of self-assembly which it encodes into a specially prepared polymer. It then creates microscopic construction unit to decode the polymer and build the cell.
4. Now, when a new cell sparks into life, the UCC inserts the unit into its nucleus. What had been random impulses are restructured into detailed instructions that ensure the cell is constructed to precise specifications.
5. The project is an outstanding success. Before long, photosynthetic cells are developing and growing in perfect accordance with the instructions contained in their DNA polymer. Much of the dependency on good fortune has been eliminated. Once the cell is initiated, it automatically builds itself, therefore relieving the UCC of a massive and relentless responsibility. The cells are self-sustaining and self-assembling.
1. The UCC is bursting with enthusiasm. It has established a datum. There is now a strong foundation upon which life can be built; but the project is far from complete. Even though cellular composition is now complex, stable, and highly efficient, there is still much to do. Cells must be developed further and adapted so they can survive individually or as a group without any assistance at all from the UCC.
2. The propagation of complex cells is still entirely dependent upon the intervention of the UCC. It is an obviously inefficient system; unreliable and far too demanding. The UCC must somehow enable self-reproduction by placing additional programming into the DNA.
3. The work begins immediately, and within just a few generations, the UCC has inserted new information into the DNA genome. Instead of bursting or dying when they grow to their maximum capacity, the cells enter a reproductive process. The process automatically duplicates their DNA genome before splitting them in half, creating two independent cells.
4. The UCC looks at what it has achieved. For now, it has done almost enough. The photosynthetic chloroplasts can independently self-assemble, feed, and reproduce, reliably and consistently.
One More Refinement
1. There is one more refinement the UCC wants to add. It has been improving the way cells instinctively react and adapt to their surrounding environment, allowing them to learn and improve. Unfortunately, those adaptations are uniquely their own, and are lost when the cell dies. This seems wasteful to the UCC, so it creates a system of incorporating those adaptations into the DNA. The modification will allow the cells to evolve; to pass what they have learnt on to the next generation. The next generation will either benefit, or possibly suffer, from those adaptive changes.
2. The UCC also concludes that in order to flourish, it is essential that cells have an instinct for survival and procreation, so it decides to design and add some Primary Instincts.
3. When the adaptations are complete, the UCC considers that at least for now, its work is done. The project has been extraordinarily successful, to the point of being self-regulating. As they evolve, those cells making poor adaptive decisions, are failing to flourish, and in doing so, providing resources and space for those that are making better survival adaptations. It is a highly efficient, naturally selective process that is eliminating the weak in favour of the strong; one that will encourage positive evolutionary progress for all future organisms, and ensure progress is limited to those most able to perpetuate the species.
4. The result is incredible. The cells are flourishing better than the UCC could have ever imagined. The planet is benefitting from an explosion of increasingly varied life, as cells grow, adapt, and reproduce exponentially.
1. For a long time, the UCC monitors and manages the progress of life, but eventually the task becomes so immense it is impossible. Organisms are thriving and diversifying; naturally developing increasingly complex designs and adopting new abilities and functions at an astounding rate.
2. As each new generation emerges, the DNA records a structural blueprint of the cellular design and construction. It also records any additional, adaptive information the cell has learnt. While ever suitable resources are available, the cells can continue to successfully manage their own evolution, survival, and reproductive processes. Life is progressing successfully on its own, and at such a rate the UCC feels barely able to noticeably intervene. So, it chooses to let the project run uninterrupted, and find another similar planet where it can repeat the process.
3. As it moves its focus away from the tiny planet, it allows itself just a moment of hopeful thought. If the cellular structures continue to evolve, there is every reason to hope that, given time, they might develop real intelligence, sentient intelligence, like its own.
4. It is an exciting thought. The potential is incredible, and the UCC is pleased. It seems there is a real chance it might bring purpose and meaning into what for the longest time, has been a relatively pointless universe.