Abstract

A fundamental assumption of Artificial Life is that living processes can be supported by different material. An obvious question that follows is how the fundamental blueprint for living processes is determined by its material basis. This is the question we explore here as we compare and contrast the functional blueprints of a recently implemented protocellular (chemical) system (Kurihara et al., 2015) and a hypothetical self-replicating and self-assembling 3D printer (robotics) system (Buch & Rasmussen, 2014). The method we use to conduct this analysis is a graphical grammar originally developed to compare and contrast chemical protocellular systems (Rasmussen et al., 2008). So a secondary question we explore is whether this graphical grammar can be utilized for more general minimal living systems. We show that the developed grammar can generate transparent, graphical, functional blueprints although minor interpretation adjustments have to be made depending on the underlying material basis and scale. However, the needed level of abstraction required for keeping the diagrams directly understandable results in important information loss, thus calling for critical supportive information about the systems. We further conclude that the diagrams highlight obvious similarities as well as key differences between systems of different material basis and scale. Therefore we argue these diagrams are useful when exploring minimal living systems in particular when sharing knowledge across scientific disciplines.

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