Living Factories

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Dani Eder [1]

Tirion Designs,

1309 Stroud Ave, Gadsden, AL 35903

The question I want to address here is whether self-powering and self-expanding production systems can be considered a form of artificial life. The approach is to look at the properties associated with life and see how well our design meets them. The design is drawn from our Seed Factories work, where an automated factory directs some of its output to making parts for its own expansion. The following list examines the properties of life individually:

  • Homeostasis - This is regulation of the internal environment. Our automated factory does control the internal environment generally, and the conditions of individual processes, so it meets this condition.
  • Organization - This is being composed of one or more basic units. A complete factory may be considered a single cell in the biological sense, since it requires all its parts to function. A cluster of specialized factories can be considered like a multi-celled organism.
  • Metabolism - Transforming energy and materials into parts of itself. This is a design function of the automated factory, along with making useful products for end users. The latter may be called the fruits of production, to extend the analogy to biology. Metabolism includes breaking down outside materials (catabolism) and building up new materials to use (anabolism), and our factory does both.
  • Growth - This is building new parts faster than old parts decay, resulting in a net increase in size. A useful self-expanding factory has a large surplus of growth capacity, because it is also making useful products. Thus if all the output were directed at expanding itself, it would grow rapidly. Making items has an energy cost, so the growth rate is limited by the available energy.
  • Adaption - This is change over time in response to the environment. An automated factory with artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms, or a large library of design files to draw from can adapt to changing environments. Lacking these, humans would have to direct the adaption, thus making them symbiotes or elements of the factory system.
  • Response to Stimuli - Our automated factory would do this via sensors, data inputs, and automated responses. An example is solar concentrators tracking the Sun much like leaves on some plants do.
  • Reproduction - This is the ability to make new units similar to itself. If our self-expanding factory is given design files for the starter kit from which it grew, and can make those machines as an output, then it would meet the reproduction test. A realistic factory design would not make all its own parts, but buy items like computer chips that are less expensive to buy than to make. This would be more like how larg biological organisms use bacteria to perform specialized functions.

From the above properties, I conclude that such factories can be considered artificial life, or at a minimum nearly alive.


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