Animat TestBy Alan H. Goldstein
Because of nanobiotechnology, we have never been closer to a Grey Goo scenario although the actual color will more likely be green or red. Because biomolecules learned self-assembly through billions of years of evolution, nanobiotechnology has a tremendous advantage when it comes to applying this particular strategy to create artificial life.
In fact, we have put into motion research that will create every component necessary to build an animat. One formula is as simple as A + B + C.
A = Nanobiotechnology devices that can survive and function inside human beings. Many therapeutic devices in development for drug delivery, cancer therapy, etc., are designed to survive in the physicochemical environment of the body.
B = Nanobiotechnology devices that can derive energy from biological metabolism. Many nanomedical devices will be powered by the fuel available inside the human body. A common idea is to take our own glucose-oxidizing enzymes and use them as a fuel cell for the nanobiobot.
C = Nanobiotechnology devices capable of copying themselves by molecular self-assembly.
Which creates a completely realistic animat formula. A + B + C = a self-replicating nanobiobot capable of living inside the human body powered by our own metabolic energy.
Of course, scientists are not intentionally putting A together with B and C. No one is trying to create the first true animat they’re just working on rudimentary forms of artificial life or synthetic biology. But if, as part of this benign research initiative, they happen to create nanobiobots some of which have traits A or B or C our definition of life will have changed forever.
Does this mean we will immediately cease to be human? Probably not. The most probable scenario is that an array of proto-animats will be carried as an evolutionary adaptation that enhances biological function for generations before any of them become an essential part of our phenotype. After that…