Apoptotic Computing: Programmed Death by Default for Software Technologies

Roy Sterritt, Mike Hinchey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


“Scientists fear a revolt by killer robots” was a headline in the UK's Sunday Times[1] reporting on scientists who presented their findings at the International Joint Conference for Artificial Intelligence in Pasadena, California, in July 2009, feared that nightmare scenarios, which have until now been limited to science fiction films, such as the Terminator series, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Minority Report, could come true. They warned that mankind might lose control over computer‐based systems that carry out a growing share of society's workload, from waging war to chatting on the phone, and have already reached a level of indestructibility comparable with a cockroach. For instance, robotic unmanned predator drones, which can seek out and kill human targets, have already moved out of the movie theatres and into the theatre of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. While at present controlled by human operators, they are moving towards more autonomous control. They may also soon be found on the streets. Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, has developed autonomous sentry robots to serve as armed border guards. They have “shoot‐to‐kill” capability[1]. Popular fears of such a situation have only been more prolific since this news coverage.

The Apoptotic Computing project, first started back in 2002[3][4][5][6][2] involves working towards the long‐term goal of developing Programmed Death by Default for Computer‐Based Systems to provide for this foreseen future. It is essentially biologically‐inspired by the Apoptosis mechanisms in multicellular organisms. It may be considered as a sub‐area of Bio‐Inspired Computing, Natural Computing or Autonomic Systems (providing the self‐destruct property).

In this chapter we focus on two areas we have applied Apoptotic Computing to; Autonomic Agent Based Environments and SWARM Space Exploration Systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSoftware Technology: 10 Years of Innovation in IEEE Computer
EditorsMike Hinchey
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781119174240
ISBN (Print)9781119174219
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Sept 2018


  • Autonomic Computing
  • Apoptotic Computing
  • Autonomous Systems


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