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The Settings: A pod of nanobots stranded on earth-like barren planet orbiting sun-like star. Assume no life form has formed on the planet, and nanobots popuate the planet.

  1. Could they evolve complex ecology (techno-sytem in place of ecosystem) where plant-like and zoo-like species composed entirely from evolved nanobots (instead of biological cellular life)?
  2. Assuming Nanobot's considerably efficiency at utilizing energy for manufacturing more of them, modifying future generation for better survivability, and assuming that they were quite intelligent as a swarm, is it possible that they evolve at extremely faster rate?
  3. If a sapient species of their life line do evolve, is it possible for them to utilize other "life" of their own line (composed of evolved nanobots) in form of biotech, like intentionally evolve a species to a specialized breed for their own purpose, like transport, air transport, bioships?

Additional notes:

  1. Evolved multicellular (multinanobots?)-like species has their cell (nanites?) capable of communicate range limited to a single individual
  2. Brain-to-brain communication with different individual (another colony of specialized nanites?) could be done via general purpose (imagine usb port) wiring slots (kinda similar to James Cameron's avatar nerve-tip).
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Your point 2 answers the question: if they are capable of making modifications to themselves, then they can evolve, and if they can evolve, then they will begin to specialize in order to take advantages of ecological niches.

They will also have another force driving evolution, essentially ecosystems are like markets (or markets like ecosystems if you will) and the various organisms will be attempting to maximize their outputs and minimize their inputs. These "market forces" will drive specialization, develop predator/prey relationships as well as parasitism and symbiosis; all the things we see in our own ecosystem.

As machines, I will assume they operate at a factor of up to 1,000,000X faster than similar biological systems (the ratio between electrical and electrochemical signal speeds), and as nano systems, they can obviously extract resources from the planet much more quickly and efficiently than macro scale beings like ourselves. This leads me to believe that their evolution, branching out into species and establishment of an ecosystem will be far faster than Earth (the 3 billion year period when Earth was essentially covered by pond scum will be over in a few thousand years, and the "Cambrian Explosion" will take hours or days when it happens.

The only thing that will make this scenario difficult is the sheer speed of evolution will lead to extremely unstable ecosystems, with mass extinctions and wild changes to the ecosystem (and possibly climactic and even geological changes due to the actions of the nanomachines) being common events.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, I didn't see that my point two answers my own question, +1 for it. I'll let this for another day before I pick an answer, because it's unfair to pick your answer as the best answer just because yours were the only one. But if yours proven to be the best, I'll definitely pick it as the best answer. Please understand :D $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Lie Mar 28 '15 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ One requisite is that they should be able to replicate imperfectly. One point against nanobots evolution is that probably there is not much redundancy in their structures/software, leaving little room for "trial & error" $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Mar 28 '15 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming that their programming (or swarm programming?) is sufficiently flexible, like "IF FAIL THEN CHANGE" scheme, would it be possible? Also, considering manufacturing flaw could be treated in the same term as on genetic mutation, would there be natural selection to occur? $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Lie Mar 29 '15 at 7:09

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