Self-replicating Linux


I often wonder whether computers will one day be alive... is this a serious condition Doctor? This of course begs the question of what life is, something that we don't have a simple answer for. We can certainly talk about the features of being alive, as far as we can see.

One of them is self-replication. The ability of living cells (of any size) to expand geographically by creating copies of themselves that colonize the neighbourhood. Scary, but true.

Well, what if Linux could self-replicate? That would surely put it on track for being alive, wouldn't it?

The reason I am talking about Linux specifically is that we, the people, own its source code. We can do with it whatever we want, which is not what we can say about Windows, Mac OS and other operating systems. Practically, we can build a Linux system from scratch, and that's exactly what some people do.

How to make a Linux system replicate? A Linux system lives on a host computer or device. If this source is connected to another device, the target, then Linux can possibly re-build itself on the target, provided it has enough access to it. Today, we can use Network boot to initiate a minimal Linux environment, spun off by the source, on the target. This minimal Linux environment has the sole job of recreating the source Linux system on the target.

What happens to the original system on the target? Here are the options:

  • The original system will be completely destroyed, logic and data.
  • Some data will be salvaged (e.g. the filesystem) and availed in the new Linux system.
  • The original system will be virtualized - this can also be achieved today using VMware Converter or equivalents.

Now on to programming Linux apoptosis...