Self-Replicating Machine

What Does Self-Replicating Machine Mean?

Self-replicating machines are a category of autonomous robot that can make copies or reproduce themselves autonomously with the help of raw materials from the existing environment. The self-replicating machine is based on the concept of self-replication as found in the nature. Further development of the self-replicating machine concept is considered a critical part of many future plans, like the mining of asteroid belts and moons for minerals and ores.


Techopedia Explains Self-Replicating Machine

The concept of self-replicating machines has been examined and popularized by Homer Jacobsen, Freeman Dyson and John von Neumann, who worked on the self-replicating machine "universal constructor" that operated in a cellular automata environment. In fact, John von Neumann was the first to study the idea, and replicators also have been called "von Neumann machines." The concept relies on traditional automation as well as large-scale technology. Some envision them as robots or nanobots that can self-replicate and scavenge the required materials to copy themselves.

Self-replicating machines have a wide range of applications, especially in the field of space exploration. One of the much-discussed applications of self-replicating machines comes in exploration of vast distances in space at a minimal cost. Self-replicating machines can be used as a potential approach for commercializing space, like developing orbital solar arrays. It can also be used in terraforming planets as well as for environmental cleanup.

There are, however, risks that need to be addressed for self-replicating machines. Some of the biggest concerns associated with the concept include:

  • The possibility of self-replicating machines emerging as a challenge to mankind
  • The use of self-replicating machines as a tool of oppression
  • Uncontrolled growth and consumption of resources by self-replicating machines

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…