Nanobots Self Replicate

Hey, what if you could have a factory that makes robots that is run by… robots? This is hardly an original thought, but we are a long way from having an assembly line of C3POs self-replicating. On the other hand, animals — including humans — self-replicate all the time using DNA. Now, scientists are making tiny nanorobots from DNA that can assemble more DNA, including copies of themselves.

Assembling 3D structures with DNA has deep implications. For example, it might be possible to build drugs in situ, delivering powerful toxins only to cancer cells. Another example would be putting DNA factories in diabetes patients to manufacture the insulin they can’t.

It remains to be seen how useful these tiny replicators might be for things like computing tasks or sensors. Of course, some fear that we will hit the grey goo scenario where a self-replicating nanobot will simply eat the entire planet and everything on it, including us.

In response, researchers say this is unlikely because the tiny machines need specific raw materials, careful heating and cooling, and exposure to UV light. At least, that’s what they think. The paper isn’t available freely, but you may be able to access it via your local school or even a public library. The supplemental materials are interesting, too.

Think you can’t compute with DNA? Think again. While DNA equipment is a bit exotic, there are surplus deals to be had. Just try not to have your project consume the world, please.

11 thoughts on “Nanobots Self Replicate

    1. Self replicating things… Plants, yeasts, any other form of life is to some extent. :)

      What stops the endless evil replication of doom is the shortage of resource. Putting these thing in an environment where all the “parts” are present: amino acids, nucleotides, ATP (the fuel), enzymes (workers) needed for assembling these.

      Viruses are simple self-replicating machines targeting a cozzy environment where everything is present: the insides of living cells. Immune system is what keeps these out.

      Maybe the big difference between weaponizing a Virus into doing something good for health (like deleting a harmful gene from a human – ), is that these seems to not be modification of an existing virus genome, but rather engineered from the ground up using knowledge acquired from past studies.

      Springs, gears, engines, sorting machines, foraging machines… everything is already built out there, so once we understand how these work, we can start to use them for all sort of purposes.

      I guess that like all (most?) technology, “good” and “bad” will depend on how they are used, not their own existence.

  1. We ARE the grey goo scenario.
    And the goo has been differentiating then competing with itself for billions of years making takeover by a new, accidentally created grey goo very unlikely.

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