Earth has undergone a succession of stages driven by physical, chemical, geological, biological, and social processes. Among the most significant transitions in Earth’s planetary evolution are the emergence of life and subsequent biochemical innovations, the emergence of social behavior and cognition, and the emergence of technology. After life emerged, planetary processes became much more complex due to increased diversity in what is biogeochemically possible. With the evolutionary emergence of collective behaviors, social systems, and cognition, an increasing number of planetary processes became controlled by life. Since the emergence of technology, intentional steering of the environment became possible. In each stage, new mechanisms of control, mediated by new information processing architectures, are added to existing levels of control on the planetary environment. We can classify these evolutionary stages of planets into matter-dominated, life-dominated, and agency-dominated phases, where each is distinguished by the extent to which information processing systems control planetary processes. We aim to characterize how each phase shapes planetary environments.

This content is only available as a PDF.