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As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law which states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. Geneticists, Alexei Sharov at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore and Richard Gordon at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida, have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by the measure of Moore's Law, life is older than the Earth itself.

The team takes Moore's Law back to zero complexity and the origin of life, by measuring the complexity of life and the rate at which it has increased from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to more complex creatures such as worms, fish, amphibians and eventually mammals. The result is an exponential increase identical to that behind Moore’s Law with the doubling time, hwoever, expanding to 376 million years rather than two years.

The application of Linear regression of genetic complexity on a log scale extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life 9.7 billion years ago. This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth.

The regression suggests that if life takes 10 billion years to evolve to the level of complexity associated with homo sapiens, then we may be among the first, if not the first, intelligent civilisation in the Milky Way, negating Drakes Equation.

The graph below shows the complexity of organisms, as measured by the length of functional non-redundant DNA per genome counted by nucleotide base pairs (bp), increases linearly with time (Sharov, 2012). Time is counted backwards in billions of years before the present (time 0).




Additionally they suggest that the evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind, multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached about every 20 years.

Sharov and Gordon also point out that astronomers believe that our Solar Nebula formed from the remnants of an earlier star, suggesting that life from this period might be preserved in the original gas, dust and ice clouds. In a form of Cosmic pansermia, life on Earth may be a continuation of a process that began many billions of years before the formation of our Solar System.

Ref: Life Before Earth

The Daily Galaxy via MIT Technology Review

Image top of page: ALMA Oberservatory


This makes sense and strengthens the Panspermia theory. It would also explain why advanced life might be a rare occurence in the universe at this early stage. If it takes 10billion years for homo sapiens to evolve, and the universe is supposedly 13 billion years old then there cant be many advanced civs, and those would likely have only developed on earth like planets, which a probably pretty rare themselves. So could also be a answer to Fermis paradox.

This assumes that Moore's Law correctly applies to biological systems, and that the definition of biological complexity used by the study is valid.

this whole article is based on assumptions! "Sharov and Gordon also point out that astronomers believe...", "the universe is supposedly 13 billion years old..","life on Earth may be a continuation ..." and so on... and on.... and on. Where are the "hard" facts.. not just assumptions?

As a programmer - totally agree! Now all starting to make more sense.

Jack Stephens is correct about the assumptions this makes. Moore's law is about machines made by human beings, machines that are much, much, much more simple than the incredible collection of billions of nanotech machines a simple mammal is.

9 billion, give or take a billion. Assuming continued advancement where will humans be in a million years? Some other species could well be millions of years more advanced even assuming this study is anywhere near correct which I very much doubt.

Ted: Most scientific theories today are based on assumptions, many which eventually prove unsustainable.

jack: I would suggest that human progress re moore´s law would actually be quicker and more exponential than biological evolution which takes millions of years for mutations and selection.

Once a sentient life form advances to first tool using, and then tool creating, the acceleration of advancement would be dramatic. This of course assumes, that the sentient, tool using life form does not self-annihilate. A more like occurrence than a meteor destroying all life.

Expat, we will have become the aliens we seek.

Sometimes someone has to ponder the idea, that is it "I" that is tripping on a hit of acid or is it everyone else. Hmmmm.

I can't make this work with the Cambrian Radiation.

One in 10 billion ... kinda like the chances of winning our Tuesday night lotto with a single game!

1. Evolution on earth does not seem to have been steady. So extrapolating back in time could be way off the mark.

2. The analysis is founded on the number of base pairs in DNA. But it omits any consideration of how long it took for the DNA method of data representation took to evolve. There may have been many precursor methods, each lasting billions of years.

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