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von Neumann probe

When will human race build a von Neumann probe


Let us assume human race manages to avoid any large scale accident for long enough. Such accident could be for example nuclear war, global economic collapse, large-scale meteorite impact, grey goo incident, worst-case global warming etc. If we manage to escape these hazards - or more precisely their negative effect on technological development - I don't see any reason why certain technologies couldn't solve most of the problems we are facing today. It might take time, but sooner or later we will master these technologies.

One of the most important of these technologies are ability to vastly increase our production capability to produce more computers, tools, clothes, toys, vehicles, houses and many other final goods needed to increase quality of life of the human race. How we can achieve this?

Every day we are gradually moving towards self-replicating manufacturing facilities. Every year more and more robots are installed to factories. There is no reason to believe this trend will change until our factories work with minimal guidance from humans. Even mainteinance are largely automated. These factories will get their raw materials from mines or materials recovery facility that collect resources automatically. Even if these factories are not intended for it, they are starting to resemble a von Neumann machine - an entity that is not only able to maintain itself but also build a copy of itself. Sooner or later building a new factory is mere choosing a place for new factory and selecting one of the existing factory blueprints. Pretty much everything else is done by builder robots, mainteinance robots, assembler robots and robotic vehicles.

If this sounds too much like science fiction check out this article: today, IBM keyboard factory in Texas doesn't require a single worker for it's production line. Only mainteinance and supervision are not automated.

But there is at least one major problem that can't be solved by science and technology, as far as I can see: overpopulation. It can easily shatter the "scenario of plenty" I described above. Right now the situation seems to be at least somewhat under control.

Materials recovery facility equipped with advanced robotics will be able to recycle our waste with incredible accuracy.


Towards space

If we have managed to advance to this point, it is time to turn our eyes towards space. Our next p problems lie there.

We can aim more attention towards space-related problems.

Refueling of Sun with fast moving von Neumann probes

Building a sun shade system with VNPs

Building a gamma burst shield with VNPs

Anti-asteroid system with VNPs

Protection against hostile extraterrestial

Launching defensive von Neumann probes, as injection against harmful bacteria

Read more about protection here

The demand for 100% fool proofness is deciding factor on schedule. The most crucial thing we have to take account is the reliability of our probe. We absolutely must be sure our probe is safe before we launch it. If there remained even a little doubt that in some cirmustances our probe wouldn't work as intended we shouldn't launch it. The design should be tested on simulated enviroment It should have several independent computer systems, each capable of shutting the entire probe if any problems or abnormalities are detected. To eliminate the possibility of evolution during millions of generations, each probe should storage original blueprints so that any accidental change on them causes the loss of all data.





What is von Neumann probe

Von Neumann probe is a hypothetical robotic space probe. It is programmed to search space for raw materials and energy in order to build copies of itself. It can be considered as a mechanical bacterium or virus. Besides self-replicating, von Neumann probes will execute tasks they are programmed to do. You can read more about von Neumann probe on Wikipedia.