Life and Self Replicator (3)

Life evolves. How can we define evolution? We can talk about evolution in many ways, but with the abundance of different elements, the elements have the ability to make copies, and the number of copies is a function of the nature of the element and the nature of the external environment, it can be called evolution.

What are the most important features? Perhaps it is that certain elements can be replicated and transferred. Richard Dawkins, a famous evolutionist, describes it as a "Replicator".

What is Replicator?

Then, what is replicator? Dawkins defines a replicator as something that replicates itself, or an existence that makes copies of itself through interaction with the outside world. Dawkins' "Replicator" theory is not so simple as it is defined, but since it is difficult to handle the content too deep in this post, I would like to replace it with a YouTube video linked below.

The important thing here, however, is that in order for evolution of life, it must replicate itself and leave behind its own information. To do this, organisms use DNA as a source of information. Therefore, the concept of "Self Replicator" that replicates itself is an essential characteristic of life.

Self Replicator vs. Universal Constructor

Cells make a copy of the same DNA through cell division and deliver it to later generations through the process of reproduction. The virus replicates itself, but does not go through the process of reproduction, but uses the organs of infected cells to amplify and spread that number. Prion replicates their own protein converting adjacent normal proteins, and computer viruses replicate their code using the infected computer's hardware and software. It can be said that evolution can occur in any way in the self-replicating process mentioned here, and if survival is determined by the selection process of this modification.

At this point, I would like to introduce John von Neumann again. Since 1940, he has been working on self-replicating machines, and his posthumous book, Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, was completed by Arthur W. Burks and released to the world in 1966.

Von Neumann established that replicators have several parts:

  • A coded representation of the replicator
  • A mechanism to copy the coded representation
  • A mechanism for effecting construction within the host environment of the replicator

Von Neumann found that the replicator was the active component of the construction mechanism and at the same time the target of the passive copying process. He proposed a way to combine instruction tape with a universal constructor to mechanically implement it.

Through this combination he asserted that self-replication is possible and that growth of complex forms such as organisms can be observed. Below is a picture showing that it is possible. What is surprising about this claim is that his idea came long before Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA molecules.

A demonstration of the ability of von Neumann's machine to support inheritable mutations. (Wiki Commons)


Replicators and Vehicles by Richard Dawkins


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