|Anonymous, a star glows in the void|
Ignored among the billions of its kin:
Galactic trash, detritus on the fringe
Of spiral arms, it slowly wheels about
The distant core where cataclysmic blasts
From violent collisions generate
Raw pandemonium of radio
And infrared and ultraviolet flares—
Dramatic entertainment for remote
Observers' instruments that scan the skies.
But what of that unnoticed, obscure star?
It shines in peace, unchanging, stable, calm.
Around it orbit scraps of the dark cloud
From which it formed. Those negligible bits
Have since condensed into some balls of gas,
Too small to merit notice from afar.
And lesser still, a few scant leftovers—
Poor remnants, near-invisible—remain
Like dust motes in an ocean, eddying
About a bubble as it rides the waves.
Upon one speck, a thousand million years
Of nothing happens: random jostlings
By atoms that link up and then dissolve
Into the brew that percolates the crust.
So meaningless millennia pass by.
At last, alignment clicks: a pattern gels,
Persists, and makes a template that now builds
Self-replicating molecule machines.
Wee engines harness energy to clone
Themselves, and thereby propagate their form.
This flurry of activity is yet
Unseen at any distance from the globe:
Mere rearrangements of the building blocks
Without a ghost of purpose or intent;
A thoughtless copy-cattish crystal growth.
But over time, the simple pattern spreads.
And as it does, it fails. Mistakes are made
Resulting in flawed copies, most of which
Are hopeless failures at the repro-game.
They wither and then die, that never lived.
But of the garbled versions, a few thrive:
Machines that out-compete their ancestors.
Efficient, accurate, precise, controlled,
They manage resources with thrift and grace.
Increasingly they spread, until they fall
Themselves as victims to still lustier foes,
Fortuitously optimized designs
Which somehow find the trick of partnership,
Alliances among the replicants,
Whereby more complex structures then emerge.
And after countless microscopic wars
Across the surface of a puny world
(Inconsequential flotsam circling
A sun entirely forgettable,
The suburbs of an average galaxy)
A change occurs: configurations bloom
That think, first crudely, then with greater power.
These patterns can manipulate themselves,
Communicate, discover, teach, and love.
—So mind appears to shake the universe.
Friday, November 10, 2000 at 15:48:41 (EST) = Datetag20001110