[extropy-chat] Self replication again (was MARS: Because it is hard)
Robert J. Bradbury
bradbury at aeiveos.com
Fri Apr 16 23:31:34 UTC 2004
On Fri, 16 Apr 2004, Jeff Davis wrote:
> Okay, look, bio nano is here now, fully functioning
> self-rep with 100% closure, but humans are just barely
> embarked on elucidating the details of how this works,
I think this is a *LOT* further along than you think
Jeff. We've got 100+ bacterial genomes done. We've
got databases like Biocyc & Ecocyc documenting the
complete biochemistry of organisms. We've got PDB (the
protein structural database) growing by thousands of structures
each year. It is moving *very* fast.
> towards the end of developing "mature" bioengineering
> capabilities. Inserting a gene for HGH into E. coli
> is to bioengineering what a caveman with a rock is to
> modern industrial engineering. Nevertheless, it's a
Oh no -- I'm reasonably certain I know how to do whole
genome engineering and the technology is available *now*.
There are at least two or three other groups working on
this as well.
> Nano--as in MNT-- is even more primitive. Mostly
> theory--good theory, I'll grant, fun theory-- but
> nevertheless theory of the most primitive sort. As to
> engineering capabilities,... so close to zero at this
> point that well, speaking honestly, it's non-existent.
Actually the primitive requirements for MNT are picking
up steam -- they just haven't really gotten into the
mode where they are operating in parallel yet.
> For a long time I was hooked on the idea of self-rep
> as the holy grail of ultra-productivity. But recently
> the Foresight people have stepped back from
> self-rep--I think as a way of stuffing the grey goo
> evil genie back in the bottle.
I think it is a combination of things. But a primary
component is also the concept that a special purpose factory
can do things faster than a general purpose factory.
This is in part due to Josh Hall's paper a couple of
years ago as to how fast a nanofactory might operate.
We have had this figured out in car factories for a
couple of decades -- one doesn't try to make a welding
robot do painting and one doesn't try to make a painting
robot do welding. Things that are general purpose may
not be able to operate as fast as things that are special
> Which brings me to my point. Nano schmano. Factories
> we can build right now. Nanofactories we cannot.
> NanoSanta lies beyond the Veil of Maya. MacroSanta
> can be assembled today, off the shelf.
This is true. It was one of the major points contained
in  (which is 22 years old now). Robert Freitas has
updated the entire set of ideas involved in self-replication
The unanswered question is *what* can we build between
factories and nanofactories? And then further can we
make it work on the moon (where one has to deal with
more radiation and temperature extremes)? [The Spirit and
Opportunity adventure seem to suggest that there is a lot that
can be done if one invests enough in making it work.]
1. Advanced Automation for Space Missions (NTIS, 1982).
2. Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines (Landes Bioscience, 2004, in press).
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