The Embryonics Project




Towards Embryonics

A human being consists of approximately 60 trillion (60x1012) cells. At each instant, in each of these 60 trillion cells, the genome, a ribbon of 2 billion characters, is decoded to produce the proteins needed for the survival of the organism. This genome contains the ensemble of the genetic inheritance of the individual and, at the same time, the instructions for both the construction and the operation of the organism. The parallel execution of 60 trillion genomes in as many cells occurs ceaselessly from the conception to the death of the individual. Faults are rare and, in the majority of cases, successfully detected and repaired. This process is remarkable for its complexity and its precision. Moreover, it relies on completely discrete information: the structure of DNA (the chemical substrate of the genome) is a sequence of four bases, usually designated with the letters A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine).

Our Embryonics project (for embryonic electronics), situated on the ontogenetic axis of our POE model,  is inspired by the basic processes of molecular biology and by the embryonic development of living beings. By adopting certain features of cellular organization, and by transposing them to the two-dimensional world of integrated circuits on silicon, we will show that properties unique to the living world, such as self-replication and self-repair, can also be applied to artificial objects (integrated circuits).

Objectives and Strategy

Our final objective is the development of very large scale integrated (VLSI) circuits capable of self-repair and self-replication. Self-repair allows partial reconstruction in case of a minor fault, while self-replication allows complete reconstruction of the original device in case of a major fault. These two properties are particularly desirable for complex artificial systems in situations which require improved reliability, such as : These emerging needs require the development of a new design paradigm that supports efficient online VLSI testing and self-repair solutions. Drawing inspiration from the architecture of living beings, we will show how to implement online testing, self-repair, and self-replication using both hardware and software redundancy.

Related Topics


Online Literature



       Presented at the 5th European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL'99), Lausanne, Switzerland, September 1999:

       Presented at the First Nasa/DoD Workshop on Evolvable Hardware, Pasadena, USA, July 1999:

Slide Show

       Presented at the 5th European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL'99), Lausanne, Switzerland, September 1999:


       Presented at the Artificial Life VII Conference (ALIFE'00), Reed College, Portland, Oregon, August 2000:



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Last update : November 23, 2000
Responsable editor: Enrico Petraglio