Mars was empty before we came. That's not to say that nothing had ever happened. The planet had accreted, melted, roiled and cooled, leaving a surface scarred by enormous geological features: craters, canyons, volcanoes. But all of that happened in mineral unconsciousness, and unobserved. There were no witnesses--except for us, looking from the planet next door, and that only in the last moment of its long history. We are all the consciousness that Mars has ever had. -Kim Stanley Robinson
“A quarter-horse jockey learns to think of a twenty-second race as if it were occurring across twenty minutes--in distinct parts, spaced in his consciousness. Each nuance of the ride comes to him as he builds his race. If you can do the opposite with deep time, living in it and thinking in it until the large numbers settle into place, you can sense how swiftly the initial earth packed itself together, how swiftly continents have assembled and come apart, how far and rapidly continents travel, how quickly mountains rise and how quickly they disintegrate and disappear.”
― John McPhee, Annals of the Former World
The most stable of the classical elements was earth. The most stable unit in the children’s category game was mineral. But with age came the understanding that stability is an illusion, and that categories are porous. The summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone, as John McPhee memorably put it. Only a prejudice could make us think the earth beneath our feet was not alive.
Computers are systems of abstractions, made from the rocks that change states. Digital computers, from hardware and software, to networks and more vague notions of intelligence all operate on pieces of rocks and metals.