Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

© 2004 Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004.


6.3.8 The Design Is Too Obvious

Finally, the complaint may be raised that the design is too simple or too “obvious.” While this may at first appear to be a purely aesthetic objection, the complaint actually reveals a biologically-trained mindset that uncritically accepts the underlying assumption that any device capable of replication must be at least as complex as natural replicators (such as living cells) are imagined to be. While mammals are self-replicating and have a genomic complexity of several billion bits, this does not seem significantly more complicated than the most complex human engineering projects – for example, the 2003 release of Microsoft Windows has several tens of millions of lines of code or ~24 billion bits (Section 5.10). Of perhaps greater significance, the simplest biological self replicating systems are in fact much simpler. Mycoplasma genitalia, for instance, has a genomic complexity of only 1,160,148 bits (twice the number of base pairs in its DNA [1867]; Table 5.1), so the assumption that biological systems are necessarily complex is incorrect.

Regarding “obviousness” in the legal/commercial context, Berube [3025] also notes that serious cooperative early work in nanoscience may be inhibited because of the current legal regime regarding intellectual property, which may be forcing innovators to resort to trade secrets (rather than public disclosure) as a way to protect their work and “delaying patenting to restrict access to the broad claims a basic patent engenders.”


Last updated on 1 August 2005