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Self-replication is any process by which a thing will make a copy of itself. Biological cells, given suitable environments, reproduce by cell division. During cell division, DNA is replicated and can be transmitted to offspring during reproduction. Biological viruses can reproduce, but only by commandeering the reproductive machinery of cells through a process of infection. Harmful prion proteins can replicate by converting normal prions into rogue forms.[1] Computer viruses reproduce using the hardware and software already present on computers. Self-replication in robotics has been an area of research and a subject of interest in science fiction. Any self-replicating mechanism which does not make a perfect copy will result in the creation of different variants and thus be subject to natural selection as the variants which are better at persisting in their environment will outlive and outreproduce variants which are not so suited to their environment.




Early research by John von Neumann established that one common form of a replicator has several parts:

  • A genome, a compact, usually error-resistant representation of the replicator's stored algorithm.[citation needed] Biologically, this is DNA.
  • A specialized set of mechanisms to copy and repair the genome, using resources gathered by the body. Biologically, this is something like DNA polymerase.
  • A body, which gathers resources and energy, and interprets a stored algorithm. Biologically, these are ribosomes.

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