Why robot sex could be the future of life on earth
2014-01-24 0:00

By George Zarkadakis | The Telegraph



If self-replicating machines are the next stage of human evolution, should we start worrying?

When René Descartes went to work as tutor of young Queen Christina of Sweden, his formidable student allegedly asked him what could be said of the human body. Descartes answered that it could be regarded as a machine; whereby the queen pointed to a clock on the wall, ordering him to “see to it that it produces offspring”. A joke, perhaps, in the 17th century, but now many computer scientists think the age of the self-replicating, evolving machine may be upon us.

It is an idea that has been around for a while – in fiction. Stanislaw Lem in his 1964 novel The Invincible told the story of a spaceship landing on a distant planet to find a mechanical life form, the product of millions of years of mechanical evolution. It was an idea that would resurface many decades later in the Matrix trilogy of movies, as well as in software labs.

In fact, self-replicating machines have a much longer, and more nuanced, past. They were indirectly proposed in 1802, when William Paley formulated the first teleological argument of machines producing other machines.

In his book Natural Theology, Paley proposed the famous “watchmaker analogy”. He argued that something as complex as a watch could only exist if there was a watchmaker. Since the universe and all living beings were far more complex than a watch, there had to be a God – a divine watchmaker. Interestingly, Paley conceded that his argument would be moot if the watch could make itself. This detail has been forgotten during the cultural wars that followed Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species.


An artist’s impression of a self-replicating nano robot – it has been proposed that similar machines could be used to colonise Mars

Self-replicating machines have been around, at least in theory, for decades. In 1949, the mathematician John von Neumann showed how a machine could replicate itself. He called it the “universal constructor” because the machine was both an active component of the construction and the target of the copying process.

This means that the medium of replication is, at the same time, the medium of storage of the instructions for the replication. Von Neumann’s big idea allowed open-ended complexity, and therefore errors in the replication – in other words, it opened up self-replicating non-biological systems to the laws of evolution. His brilliant insight predated the discovery of the DNA double helix by Crick and Watson. He went on to develop mathematical entities that reproduced themselves and evolved over time, which he called “cellular automata”.

Although von Neumann’s model initially worked only in mathematical space, it was a clear demonstration that evolution may influence mechanical evolution. Since then, engineers have taken the principle on board and have produced physical applications such as RepRap machines – 3D printers that can print most of their own components.

The next logical step would be to apply these principles in robot reproduction. For instance, we could have a robotic factory with three classes of robots: one for mining and transporting raw material, one for assembling raw materials into finished robots and one for designing processes and products. The last class, the “brains” of the autonomous robotic factory, would be artificial intelligence systems. But could these robots also “evolve”?

[...]

Read the full article at: telegraph.co.uk




Related Articles
Asimov’s Laws Of Robotics Won’t Protect You
Hive Mind: Robots will use their own ’internet’ to learn from each other
LISTEN: Creepy AI Telemarketer Sounds Human, Denies Being a Robot
Robot Rights: Is it OK to torture or murder a robot?
Tech lets users feel 3D objects on flat screens
3D Printing Bananas and Mushrooms for Astronauts
Terminator 2-style liquid metal can now be 3D printed
3D Printing Could Aid Deep-Space Exploration, NASA Chief Says


Latest News from our Front Page

Professor: Reason Itself Is A White Male Construct
2015-07-04 3:55
A philosophy and religion professor at Syracuse University gave an interview to The New York Times Thursday in which he critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.” Prof. John Caputo was being interviewed by fellow philosophy professor George Yancy for the 13th installment of an interview series Yancy conducts with philosophers regarding racial topics. Given its emphasis on first principles ...
The Broken Window Fallacy
2015-07-04 3:48
Youtube description: This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day. Source: youtube.com
Jenji Kohan and the Jewish Hyper-Sexualization of Western Culture
2015-07-04 3:33
As detailed in The Culture of Critique, Freud and his followers regarded anti-Semitism was a universal pathology which had its roots in sexual repression. The theoretical basis for this can be found in Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality where he linked aggression to the frustration of human drives — especially the sex drive. Kevin MacDonald notes that: ...
Confederate History - Dispelling the Myths
2015-07-03 3:28
History books, the media, the school systems, etc abound in falsehoods and inaccuracies of Confederate and Southern history. This fact sheet will help to clarify and dispell some of these rampant inaccuracies. MYTH - The War of 1861 - 1865 was fought over slavery. FACT - Terribly untrue. The North fought the war over money. Plain ...
Gays Rights May Open Door for Pedophile Rights
2015-07-03 3:31
Democrats have attempted to normalize pedophilia as a sexual orientation. A recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage may soon allow pedophiles to argue they are suffering discrimination. “Using the same tactics used by ‘gay’ rights activists, pedophiles have begun to seek similar status arguing their desire for children is a sexual orientation no different than heterosexual or homosexuals,” writes Jack Minor ...
More News »