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PDF (458 KB)
Pages 83-90
First published 2 July 2012

Architectures for Self-reproduction: Abstractions, Realisations and a Research Program

Barry McMullin


It is well recognised that von Neumann's seminal abstraction of machine self-reproduction can be related to the reality of biological self-reproduction — albeit only in very general terms. On the other hand, the most thoroughly studied artificial evolutionary systems, incorporating meaningful selfreproduction, are the coreworld systems such as Tierra, Avida etc.; and these, in general, rely on a purely "self-inspection" mode of reproduction (or, more simply, "replication"). To the extent that the latter has any direct biological analog it would appear to be with molecular level reproduction and evolution in the hypothesised RNA-world. In this paper I review the details and distinctions between these modes of reproduction. I indicate how the abstract von Neumann architecture can, in fact, be readily realised in coreworld systems; and outline the research program that flows from this. Finally I attempt to make more precise the resulting analogies with molecular biology, at least up to the (prokaryotic) cell level.