The RepRap Symbiosis

By on March 20th, 2009 in blog


Adrian Bowyer, the force behind the RepRap project, recently explained some of the thinking behind the idea grand idea of RepRap: Create a machine that can replicate itself. Bowyer writes:

Life is the nearest thing to magic that this Universe can do, and – like everyone – I have always been delighted by the simplicity of natural selection and awed by its planet-transforming power. Since childhood I have wanted to make a replicating machine, but the genesis of RepRap was my realisation that, in order to succeed, such a machine would have to live and to evolve symbiotically with people.

But which symbiosis to copy biomimetically? I decided upon the one between the flowers and the insects. I reasoned: why not make a machine that needs the help of people to reproduce, just as the clover needs the bee to carry its pollen? And why not have the machine make goods for the people to reward them for their help, just as the clover makes nectar to reward the bee? Such a machine should prosper with Darwinian stability alongside its human collaborators. 3D printing seemed to me to be the most versatile technology to use to make it, and thus the RepRap project began…

And that’s the thing: RepRap cannot literally reproduce itself. Naysayers would quickly point this out in an attempt to discredit the idea. But Bowyer is correct, because virtually everything that reproduces cannot do so on its own. Whether they need other life forms to assist in a symbiotic manner, or simply having the correct surrounding environment present, nothing is truly on its own. RepRap is just another case, like everything else, including ourselves.

Via RepRap

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By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

1 comment

  1. I think reprap is a biproduct of the symbiotic relationship between us and the web.

    Marshall Macluhan? once said that all technologies/media are extensions of some human faculty.

    I think this is just an interesting metaphor to overlay over an indifferent and entirely disconnected reality… but within that, a reprap is an extension of our hands I think… and it’s the symbiotic relationship with the web that is allowing us to build this new capability.

    When repraps become smart enough to more closely model the behaviour of a bio-symbiote, I’m betting that they won’t be stand-alone devices. They’ll be web appliances… so on some level we will be sharing a set of hands with our symbiote.

    And on some other level, we will have become the hands of our symbiote.

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