© Douglas Blackiston & Sam Kriegman
A new scientific report has revealed that tiny biological machines that scientists have developed from the cells of frogs – commonly referred to as Xenobots – can self-replicate.
Xenobots were announced in a report Last year, he suggested that the self-repair technology could be used to replace biodegradable materials such as concrete, steel and plastic. Then, in March, he revealed that organisms improved to be able to remember their surroundings and gather into a single swarm.
And now, an article published in the journal PNAS on Monday indicates that Xenobots are capable of self-replicating.
Andclaim Joshua Bongard, one of the co-authors of the new report, said that with the “correct design”, organisms would “spontaneously self-replicate”, and suggested that this technology could be used to treat future epidemics and speed up vaccine production.
Sam Krigman, lead author of the study, described the process as an entirely new form of self-replication, noting that “no animal or plant known to science reproduces in this way.” The researcher said the Xenobots were adapted to reproduce by a supercomputer that came true to ideal “parents” after months of working on the task. And although the design, which bears some resemblance to the Pac-Man, looked very counterintuitive and “simple”, it proved to be very original.
Kriegman claimed that “parent Xenobots” in the form of Pac-Man ended up not just one generation, but several, adopting “grandchildren of the great-grandchildren” who in turn created “grandchildren of great-grandchildren”.
Bongard explained that the speed of replication plays a critical role in the practical applications of robotics.
“If we can develop technologies, and learn from Xenobots, where we can quickly tell AI, ‘We need a biological tool that does X and Y and suppresses Z,’ that could be very useful,” Bongard explained.
And while Bongard insisted that the benefits of the supposedly hacked technology outweigh the risks, several reports have raised ethical concerns about the Xenobot technology. It has even been suggested that it could be converted into a military biological weapon and an assassination tool.