School of Computing


TAURUS: Towards an Audacious Universal Constructor

A universal constructor (UC) , first proposed by von Newman in 1948, is a machine that can -in principle- build any other machine, including copies of itself. Since it was first proposed, many attempts have been made to develop a prototype of a UC that could self-replicate while simultaneously building something useful to its designers. None of the partial prototypes demonstrated so far are true Universal Constructors because they are severely limited on both (a) their ability to self-replicate and (b) on what they can actually manufacture as useful commodity outputs. In this grant I propose an innovative route to realise von Newman's vision by tackling heads-on limitations (a) & (b) mentioned above. To do this, I will strategically integrate recent advances in Synthetic Biology from which we can obtain for free both cellular self-replication -tackling limitation (a)- and a rich biochemical cell-based nanolaboratory from which one could manufacture a large variety of potentially useful commodities. Thus, TAURUS offers a clear route towards the first implementation of a true universal constructor.