The genesis of robotic life and the future of humanity | Sciences – Up News Info

By daniellenierenberg

Looks like some science fiction. Scientists have created what has been described as the first live robots in the laboratory, and they did so by testing different combinations using an "evolutionary algorithm," which can be called electronic evolution.

Before readers begin to imagine androids made of meat, I must point out that these "xenobots" They are less than a millimeter wide and the closest thing they have to the extremities are two stumps that they use to swim through liquids for weeks at a time without requiring additional nutrition. They are composed of embryonic stem cell taken from the African clawed frog, known scientifically as Xenopus laevis, which inspired the name of the tiny bots.


The scientists used heart cells that act as miniature pistons and skin cells that hold the package together. The level of sophistication involved in this feat of bioengineering suggests that, while the technological glories of the past reside in large monuments and megaprojects, the greatest achievements of the 21st century are found in the microscopic, nano and quantum scales.

Developed by researchers at Tufts University, the University of Vermont and the Harvard Wyss Institute, these impressive miniature biological machines (or should they refer to them as creatures?), Which can repair or heal themselves when they are damaged, They have potentially multiple beneficial uses. .

These include cleaning the microplastics that pollute our oceans and other toxic materials, as well as vectors to administer medications within our bodies, to perform surgical procedures and other medical applications. Unlike conventional robots and machines that can pollute the environment for a long time after their useful lives have expired, xenobots have the additional advantage of being completely biodegradable, which break down harmlessly after "dying."

In addition, such "biological machines,quot; are, in principle, more versatile and robust than their inanimate counterparts. "If living systems could be designed continuously and quickly ab initio and deployed to fulfill novel functions, their innate ability to resist entropy could allow them to far exceed the useful lives of our strongest but static technologies." the researchers postulate.

However, although I do not classify myself as xenobotphobic, I find the possible consequences of biobots and their possible future negative uses quite disturbing, despite the exciting possibilities they present.

Neither the researchers in their scientific paper Outlining the results or news coverage of the xenobots seems to have considered the damaging and destructive potential of this technology. However, this exists and should be carefully considered to avoid the dangerous hazards ahead.

The wrong hands could transform biobots from healing machines to biological weapons. Instead of administering curative medications to the body, they could be used to maim or kill. They could be used to act as the ideal hitmen, committing the perfect murder.

Given the pace of technological progress, the day cannot be very far away when biobots that can send toxins or deadly viruses to the body, attack vulnerabilities in an individual with tailored DNA, simulate a terminal illness or even carry out deadly microsurgery will be developed before a self-destruct mechanism causes them to dissolve in the bloodstream, making these invisible killers impossible to track. They could also be designed and used to attack entire populations, either as acts of biological warfare or bioterrorism.

Even if we manage to control the potential for intentional damage and misuse, there is also the potential for accidental damage. For example, researchers point to the future possibility of equipping biobots with reproductive systems to ensure that they can be (re) produced at scale. However, how can we be sure that they will stick to the script of their programming and produce only the required number of descendants who will live the required useful life?

Do we understand evolution enough to be sure that these novel life forms that we will create will not get rid of the limitations we have designed for them and will mutate in unexpected and potentially risky ways?

Beyond practical applications and erroneous applications, there are long-range ethical dimensions, not to mention the socio-economic and cultural implications for humanity.

By blurring (even more) the lines between the inanimate and the lively, how will we define life in the future? Anything made of organic tissue, no matter how simple and synthetic, continues to be considered life forms, or will we need new categories?

How about the relative value of life / machines? It is a simple xenobot superior to a highly sophisticated synthetic robot, such as Asimo and other expert robots, because one is "alive,quot; and the other probably not.

If intelligence and sensitivity are considered to be some of the characteristics of humanity, will we have to start granting intelligent machines the same rights, since "artificial intelligence,quot; continues to reach and even surpass its human form?

One of the most controversial technological problems of the moment is data privacy rights. But could we reach a point in the future where the data itself needs and has rights? For example, if one day it is considered that robots and computers have become truly intelligent and sensitive, then their data systems will presumably require protection against malicious deletion, which would amount to murder or involuntary modification, which would violate their freedom to choice.

Then there are the existential questions posed by this technological progress. Although technology has rendered the work of countless millions of professions obsolete, in general it has acted as a reinforcement and aid for a humanity in the control of innovation. However, we are rapidly reaching the stage where our technological creations not only eclipse our physical abilities but also our mental abilities and, soon, intellectual abilities.

When we finally build or develop machines that are not only clearly smarter than us, but also have a clear sense of identity and autonomy, we can continue to control them and, if we do, will this be an unjust form of subjugation or even slavery?

To escape the possible inevitability of our own obsolescence and the physical limitations of our bodies, we can decide to merge with our technological creations. We can update or modify our bodies in part or in full, as well as load or update our mental operating systems. Who knows, some may even decide to escape the physical constraints imposed by our mortal and vulnerable bodies, and download their mind and "spirit,quot; into a simulated virtual world (later), transforming into a pure metaphysical code.

Future radical modifications of our physical or mental states, especially if they are divergent among species, will raise the biggest and most fundamental question of all: what does it mean to be human?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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The genesis of robotic life and the future of humanity | Sciences - Up News Info

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