A University just created a new life-form using real DNA

Artificial Life
Image credit | Igor Borisenko

While we were looking the other way, mainly at where Artificial Intelligence was going, where it is now and where it could potentially end up, a University did something extraordinary.

A team at Cornell University created a machine that is, to all intents and purposes, alive. It has a metabolism, it is capable of self assembly and organising itself. They used a process nicknamed DASH to create this thing, which stands for ‘DNA-based Assembly and Synthesis of Hierarchical materials (obviously – not).

When researching subject matter for our Friday Futures article, you do not expect to find something that should belong in the future that is actually happening now.

The surprising thing about this breakthrough by a University is that there is not more noise about it. You might well have thought that there would be people lining up to shout ‘stop it now, scrap it now’ and others who would welcome it with open arms. So far, this machine does not have arms, so the gesture could not be reciprocated.

In a statement, the Professor in charge of this lunacy or genius, depending on your point of view says that “we are not making something that’s alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before.”

Yet they have created a living, dying machine.

You do not need to add much imagination, a brain and a memory or two of the infamous Manhattan Project to come up with a living, (possibly) breathing (although that might be inefficient), thinking machine and suddenly you are back in the Doomsday Zone.

You have a machine that can ‘live’ which is exactly the sort of thing that we worry about with artificial intelligence. We secretly (maybe now not so secretly) know that we are destroying our planet but we, as humans, are very capable of making excuses, blaming others and burying our heads in the sand.

With a sentient machine, not so much.

Let us hope that, as the experiment continues, it does not turn into some SciFi horror film and remains comfortably within our control.

That said, creating a living machine that is in charge of itself – what could possibly go wrong?

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