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John von Neumann on Self-Replication - Dictionary of Arguments

Brockman I 56
Self-reproduction/self replication/universal contructor/Neumann/Brooks: In the 1940s, von Neumann developed an abstract self-reproducing machine called a cellular automaton. In this case it occupied a finite subset of an infinite two-dimensional array of squares each containing a single symbol from a finite alphabet of twenty-nine distinct symbols—the rest of the infinite array starts out blank. The single symbols in each square change in lockstep, based on a complex but finite rule about the current symbol in that square and its immediate neighbors. Under the complex rule that von Neumann developed, most of the symbols in most of the squares stay the same and a few change at each step. So when one looks at the nonblank squares, it appears that there
Brockman I 57
is a constant structure with some activity going on inside it. When von Neumann’s abstract machine reproduced, it made a copy of itself in another region of the plane. Within the “machine” was a horizontal line of squares that acted as a finite linear tape, using a subset of the finite alphabet. It was the symbols in those squares that encoded the machine of which they were a part. During the machine’s reproduction, the “tape” could move either left or right and was both interpreted (transcribed) as the instructions (translation) for the new “machine” being built and then copied (replicated)—with the new copy being placed inside the new machine for further reproduction. >Self replication/Crick.


Brooks, RA. “The inhuman mess our machines have gotten us into” in: Brockman, John (ed.) 2019. Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI. New York: Penguin Press.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

NeumJ I
J. v. Neumann
The Computer and the Brain New Haven 2012

Brockman I
John Brockman
Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI New York 2019


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-06-26
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