Self-replicating machines are robots or nanobots that can make copies of themselves. They are often envisioned as being able to scavenge the required materials and energy to copy themselves thus being fully self-replicating.
Self-replicating machines have applications for space exploration. For example, a single probe could potentially replicate endlessly until its decedents have accomplished goals such as commercializing space, terraforming planets or exploring vast distances in many directions.A popular concept in science fiction, self replicating machines were first researched by John von Neumann in the 1940s. Von Neumann founded game theory, contributed to the development of the atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missile. He is also credited with coining the term Mutual Assured Destruction which he referred to as MAD. He is quoted as saying "If you say why not bomb [the Soviets] tomorrow, I say, why not today? If you say today at five o'clock, I say why not one o'clock?"Self-replicating machines are widely considered an existential risk due to scenarios such as growth of robot populations at speeds that exceed bacteria. A single bacteria can become 2 million in 7 hours. A similar growth rate could lead to 4 trillion robots in 14 hours.
|Definition||A robot, nanobot or machine such as a space craft that can make copies of itself.|
|Example Applications||Exploring vast distances in space at low cost.
Potential approach for commercializing space such as building orbital solar arrays.Environmental clean up and terraforming planets.|
|Risks||Use as a weapon or tool of oppression.Uncontrolled growth and consumption of resources and production of waste.Emergence as challenge to humans.|
|Related Concepts||Precautionary PrincipleExistential RiskRoboticsArtificial IntelligenceGrey Goo|
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