Kinematically replicating organisms
Almost all organisms replicate by growing and then shedding offspring. Some molecules also replicate, but by moving rather than growing: they find and combine building blocks into self copies. We discovered that clusters of cells, if freed from a developing organism, can similarly find and combine loose cells into clusters that look and move like they do, and that this ability does not have to be specifically evolved or introduced by genetic manipulation. At the Xenobot Lab, we use AI to design clusters that replicate better, and perform useful work as they do so. This suggests future technologies may, with little outside guidance, become more useful as they spread, and that life harbors surprising behaviors just below the surface, waiting to be uncovered.