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 Ren 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 Darwins publication of On the Origin of Species.


An artists 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 Neumanns 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 Neumanns 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
Asimovs Laws Of Robotics Wont 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

Minister of Migration attacked by asylum seeker with fire extinguisher
2015-03-27 2:12
Sweden’s Minister of Justice & Migration also known as Morgan “only 1%” Johansson, has been attacked with a fire extinguisher when he visited an asylum home for future Swedes. Regional newspaper, Kristiandstadsbladet reported that a man who had been living at the home for a couple of weeks grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam all over the minister who didn’t ...
Hollywood agents: Difficult for white actors to find work now that shows required ‘to go ethnic’
2015-03-27 1:51
According to an article by Nellie Andreeva published yesterday at Deadline Hollywood, the television landscape has shifted so much this season that white actors are finding it increasingly difficult to find roles. In addition to new hit shows with mostly minority casts — Black-ish, Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, and How to Get Away with Murder — shows that were originally ...
Congratulations Pussy Porters!
2015-03-26 18:52
Mural paid for by the government, decorates a Swedish school. On International Women’s day Julia Caesar published this chronicle in Swedish on Snaphanen which I’ve translated but prior to reading it I’d like to provide you with some background information on certain terms which are incomprehensible to non-Swedes. First and foremost “pussy porter” and “penis porter” are terms that third-wave feminists in ...
Germanwings co-pilot appears to have crashed plane deliberately – prosecutor
2015-03-26 18:08
The Germanwings co-pilot seemed to have crashed the plane deliberately, killing 150 people on board. The co-pilot wouldn’t let the captain inside the cabin, with the “intension to destroy” the jet, the French prosecutor said at a press conference. Follow RT’s live updates on investigation into Germanwings plane crash The Germanwings co-pilot was identified as Andreas Lubitz. The captain was between 30 ...
Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary
2015-03-25 19:38
The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced. “Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL. The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because ...
More News