By: Emma Hart | Robots may soon be able to reproduce – will this change how we think about evolution? | Emma Hart | Neuroscience | The Guardian
Nature is full of examples of biology adapting to its surroundings. Technology may just be about to catch up
From the bottom of the oceans to the skies above us, natural evolution has filled our planet with a vast and diverse array of lifeforms, with approximately 8 million species adapted to their surroundings in a myriad of ways. Yet 100 years after Karel Čapek coined the term robot, the functional abilities of many species still surpass the capabilities of current human engineering, which has yet to convincingly develop methods of producing robots that demonstrate human-level intelligence, move and operate seamlessly in challenging environments, and are capable of robust self-reproduction.
But could robots ever reproduce? This, undoubtedly, forms a pillar of “life” as shared by all natural organisms. A team of researchers from the UK and the Netherlands have recently demonstrated a fully automated technology to allow physical robots to repeatedly breed, evolving their artificial genetic code over time to better adapt to their environment. Arguably, this amounts to artificial evolution. Child robots are created by mixing the digital “DNA” from two parent robots on a computer.
Emma Hart is a professor in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University and a member of the Autonomous Robot Evolution: Cradle to Grave project at the University of York