Birth & death

As living beings, humans share the properties that characterise the animate world.

Everything starts with birth: in a single moment, something comes into being that did not exist before. A new and unique entity has taken shape. Although built from material taken from its environment, it is yet distinct and separate from those surroundings.

Initially, this new organism accumulates more material. Growth brings an increase in size, strength and functionality until the organism reaches its full productivity; until it is able to sustain itself and to reproduce.

When growth comes to an end, ageing starts to work in the opposite direction. While its size remains unchanged, the organism gradually loses functionality (for example reproduction) and strength.

In the moment of death, that unique entity ceases to exist. It is not distinct from its surroundings any longer; the material it was made of returns to the environment.

In addition to this cycle of life, all organisms share a capacity to exert active influence on their environment. This agency is necessary to obtain nutrients and energy, find partners, and avoid dangers. Yet it has ambiguous effects as many organisms feed on other living beings: the agency that secures the survival of one is fatal for another.

Organisms do not only interact with other living beings. They are embedded within a wider environment: life is surrounded by ‘non-life‘. And that has its own characteristic ways.

This is the fifth in a series of short posts on the origins of innovation.

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