Atomically precise manufacturing is not about recreating life. Other unrelated research is.
Recreation of life is off-topic in regards to APM
The research that aims to recreate life in a somewhat similar fashion to the natural blueprint is called synthetic biology.
Synthetic biology and similar research is not only strongly unrelated to APM it points in a polar opposite direction since:
- it is strongly adhering to the brownian technology path. That is ...
- it is showing no intentions of striving for an increase in building material stiffness to move nearer towards machine phase. That is ...
- It does not attempt to ditch the weaknesses of biological systems on the most fundamental level.
In the very early stages of the development of APM some results of synthetic biology may find usage. But the drop in results from synthetic biology that are usable for APM development actually can be seen as a measure of success in the development of APM since it shows increasing dissimilarities and divergence of development paths.
Areas like structural DNA nanotechnology already show strong divergence.
- Completely synthetic short DNA snippets are used that have never seen any form of life.
- DNA is used as multidimensional building material (sheets, wireframes, blocks) instead of unidimensional data storage (a tape)
- Assembled structures (e.g. rectangular blocks) abstract away from the complex geometry of the base parts (wobbly nobbly DNA snippets) leading to parts with high symmetry that are easy to design with.
For deeply biological applications synthetic biology will on the short to mid term likely be more relevant than focused development towards APM.
Increasingly advanced APM systems (foldamber based -> biomineral based -> gemstone based) will become increasingly capable of backward integrating synthetic biology "functionality". Note that this is the other direction! Synthetic biology then starts to benefits from APM. Synthetic biology (just as biology) will start to be managed by more advanced APM systems. Example: Microcompartmentalized cell culture.
Related to this is the synthesis of food where management of biological growth too can managed in more advanced gem-gum APM systems.
Bio-analogies – mental trapdoor attractors
Hiddenly superficial bio-analogies are a perpetual and very detrimental mental attractor for people encountering the concepts of APM for the first time in an unguided fashion. There are many mental trapdoors prepared leading people to false conclusions.
The viral spread of the molecular assembler bioanalogy concept when it already was considered obsolete by the one who introduced it. Superseded by the more sensible concept of nanofactories.
Maybe in the far future
Warning! you are moving into more speculative areas.
This is about the scenario of gem-gum goo.
Going far enough into the future it seems not unthinkable that our artificial gem-gum systems will reach a complexity (experienced at the macroscale) similar to natural life on earth. One could think of techno plants sharing the biosphere with natural flora and fauna and also reaching into the hydrosphere atmosphere and lithosphere.
When comparing super advanced atomically precise gem-gum systems (let's call it gem-gum life) to natural life there are two main differences.
The first difference is mentioned many times on this wiki because it pops up in many contexts. Very far term gem-gum life just as much more mundane far term gem-gum technology would be gem-gum based with nanosystems operating in machine phase.
The consequence: High independence of water.
Side-note: The people at SETI looking for really smart aliens (ET) for having a conversation maybe shouldn't focus too much on planets with water in the habitable zone. Searching for gem-gum life in dry (massive) asteroid belts (with low gravity and high surface area btw.) may be a much better approach. Btw: Water ice and nitrogen ice (or even hydrogen ice??) found far away from stars are bad building materials for advanced APM systems when occurring in isolation / high excess. See: "Colonization of the solar system".
The second difference between "gem-gum life" and natural life would be equally fundamental. The difference would be that the gem-gum life will features higher level control. There's no need to put the full building plan of a product (DNA in biological cells) in each and every microcomponent it is constituted of. Well microcomponents can't really be compared to biological cells. They have no replicative functions**, no metabolism. Many of them (not all of course) not even have any necessity to being capable of any active behavior at all. The only similarities between microcomponents and biological cells lie in their property of isolation against contaminants. And that on a high abstraction level because the environments and the contamination levels are vastly different. Everything else is fundamentally different.
(** The old and obsolete molecular assembler concept again.)