The creation of the first ‘living’ robots will raise the question: What does it mean to be human?
Given the pace of technological progress, the day cannot be too far off when biobots will be developed that can deliver deadly toxins or viruses deep into the body, attack vulnerabilities in an individual with custom-made DNA, simulate a terminal disease or even carry out deadly microsurgery before a self-destruct mechanism causes them to dissolve into the bloodstream, rendering these invisible assassins untraceable. They could also be designed and utilised to attack entire populations, either as acts of biowarfare or bioterrorism.
Even if we manage to control the potential for intentional mischief and misuse, there is also the potential for accidental damage. For example, the researchers point to the future possibility of equipping biobots with reproductive systems to ensure they can be (re)produced to scale. However, how can we be certain that they will stick to the script of their programming and produce only the requisite numbers of offspring which will live the required lifespan?
Do we understand evolution enough to be certain that these novel lifeforms we will create will not break free of the constraints we have designed for them and mutate in unexpected, and potentially risky, ways?
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