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Artifical Life: What it means?

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 7/31/2008

Scientists today desperately want to create a living organism, or artificial life from the cell up and that means that they have to construct a cell and a cellular membrane and then actually place nucleotides within the cellular structure so that the DNA sequencing could take place.

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    For years scientists and naysayer alike have been offering up their views on artificial life forms and when and where we may expect to see artificial life created. This means that we should have some basis of understanding for what is considered living or life. To many scientists if something has DNA and is capable of reproducing and passing along a genomic code, then it is alive. To others, life only should be applied to something which is capable of feeling and reacting and thinking. That is why some consider some robots and computers and even certain software to be at the very edge of the line between alive and not alive. For researchers, they hold tightly to the DNA/reproduction hallmarks. Artificial life is not to be mistaken for something that has been genetically engineered and modified; it is actually a living organism that is created from essentially nothing, other than basic parts. This distinction is what defines test tube babies as not being artificial. The only thing artificial is the fertilization of the egg, but the sperm and the egg were not made from basic parts, they were used as they were obtained.

    Scientists today desperately want to create a living organism, or artificial life from the cell up and that means that they have to construct a cell and a cellular membrane and then actually place nucleotides within the cellular structure so that the DNA sequencing could take place. The organism must also be made to be self sustaining and it should be able to take nutrition, produce waste products, and move and adapt to changes in environment. This is difficult enough to do and has yet to be accomplished in a lasting manner, but once the nucleotides are there, the trick is to get them to combine into DNA.

    This may not be possible without certain enzymes to kick start the process and then you have perhaps crossed over that knife edge line of having created the artificial life, because the enzymes were necessary and they were not created by the scientists. Scientists are still struggling somewhat with a standard definition of an artificial life form, and the guidelines are still in flux.

    The general public has a much lighter perception of artificial life and there is some confusion here between artificial life and AI or artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is created by man and it is usually seen in the computer world. A computer has been given the means of a thought process by man and while that conveys thought and action, it should not be construed the same as AL or artificial life. With artificial life, there is most basically a DNA sequence that has been created from just the building blocks of the DNA chain and the DNA should be able to be passed along as reproduction occurs. Should this happen in the way scientists are envisioning it then they will be able to say that the life form, however basic and one celled it may be, was life that they created from nothing.