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1064-5462
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Artificial Life

Summer 2017, Vol. 23, No. 3, Pages 343-350
(doi: 10.1162/ARTL_a_00235)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Molecular Robots Obeying Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics
Article PDF (1.13 MB)
Abstract

Asimov's three laws of robotics, which were shaped in the literary work of Isaac Asimov (1920–1992) and others, define a crucial code of behavior that fictional autonomous robots must obey as a condition for their integration into human society. While, general implementation of these laws in robots is widely considered impractical, limited-scope versions have been demonstrated and have proven useful in spurring scientific debate on aspects of safety and autonomy in robots and intelligent systems. In this work, we use Asimov's laws to examine these notions in molecular robots fabricated from DNA origami. We successfully programmed these robots to obey, by means of interactions between individual robots in a large population, an appropriately scoped variant of Asimov's laws, and even emulate the key scenario from Asimov's story “Runaround,” in which a fictional robot gets into trouble despite adhering to the laws. Our findings show that abstract, complex notions can be encoded and implemented at the molecular scale, when we understand robots on this scale on the basis of their interactions.