People often postulate in works of fiction that humans (and other sentient biological organisms) have powers that machines will never duplicate, but by machines people often think about constructs made of metal and silicon.

If being organic really allowed such advantages over machines of metal, why couldn't someone make a machine that offers the best of both worlds by combining dryware components with biological ones, for example, a conventional/bioelectronic hybrid computer system?

  • $\begingroup$ nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13980-y, DNA computers $\endgroup$ – John Jun 24 '20 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ I think the main issue is you dont want squishy wet biological parts next to large amounts of electricity, so if you want powerful computers and robotics a different biology atleast is better suited than ours for serious amounts of power. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Jun 24 '20 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ You mean combining cybernetic and organic components into something I'm going to coin a phrase and call a cyb-org or cyborg for short? $\endgroup$ – David Hambling Jun 26 '20 at 17:36

why couldn't someone make a machine using biological components, for example, a computer system?

For a fundamental reason: we know how to wire transistors, resistors, capacitors and inductances to make an integrated circuit which will end up making a computer, but we don't know how to wire neurons to make a working brain.

Like someone said

If our brain was so simple that we could understand it, we would be too dumb to do it.

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    $\begingroup$ to be clear you could make a computer using neurons when we learn how to wire neurons. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 24 '20 at 13:57

You see this in Ghost in the Shell (bioroids), Appleseed (bioroids), Xenosaga (Realians), Mass Effect (Keepers), Halo (Huragok), Warhammer (Jokaro), StarCraft (Zerg and their Buildings), Blade Runner (Replicants), Star Trek (Species 8472 ships), Metroid (Metroids, Aurora units) as well as in the book All Tommorrows (Colonials, Modular people's technology).

Most of the time the emphasis is on alternate molecular chemistries that imitate the molecular machinery of carbon based life though rather than just whipping up regular carbon-based DNA to make something else. Most of the time it is also used in constructs so intelligent they are actual beings in their own right. Examples of "dumb" or "mindless" appliances are rarer.

Which brings up the issue that "machine" is poorly defined in your question. Is an android suddenly not an android just because you make it out of carbon based molecular chemistry instead of metal and wires? Is a being made of electronics and metal doomed to always being called a machine no matter how advanced, complex, capable, and intelligent it is? Is a synthetic carbon based microorganism designed to decompose oil not a machine just because it is carbon based? Are you not a machine just because you don't feel like you are a machine despite meeting all the criteria for one? Your body is essentially a machine built with carbon-based nanotechnology.

The thing is that it takes a lot of effort and time to make something from scratch at such a small scale (or at least design it, if things are self-building but that process could be slow too...look at how we grow) so you probably would not do it unless it was necessary for function or the machine was worth the effort. A fridge might not be worth the effort. A computer, android, or starship might be.

  • $\begingroup$ By "machine" I meant "construct made out of metal" $\endgroup$ – Tronzoid Jun 24 '20 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ Does that exclude plastics or other synthetic materials. There are many things made mostly of plastic. You could also very well imagine a robot made of carbon fiber tubes with motors made of carbon nanotube wires, and it's computer made of something non-metalic (like silicon). $\endgroup$ – csiz Jun 24 '20 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Tronzoid Perhaps you misunderstood me, but when I said define "machine", I meant in your phrase "a machine using biological components, for example, a computer system" $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 24 '20 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Tronzoid Oh, are you talking about instead of a 100% biological computer, like an otherwise ordinary looking computer with a small pulsing organic brain somewhere inside it? So hybrid machines? Or cybernetic appliances, I guess? $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 24 '20 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, a mix of biological and cybernetic $\endgroup$ – Tronzoid Jun 25 '20 at 8:06

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