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von Neumann probe

Is it technically possible to build a von Neumann probe

In the last chapter I described the idea of a von Neumann probe. Now it is time to ask: is it technologically possible to build such a machine?

I believe no one dares to say it would be easy to build a von Neumann probe. On the other hand, I can't figure out any single problem in it that would be insurmountable. For me it looks like a set of engineering problems that are huge but still solvable. Look what we have achieved

Also, human that knows probably more than anyone

http://www.molecularassembler.com/KSRM.htm

http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/ReproJBISJuly1980.htm

It is noticable that such a device already exist: a human. Or a ladybird. Or an oak. Actually pretty much every living thing in the nature works like a von Neumann probe: it consumes energy and raw materials to produce copies of itself.

This is of course not directly comparable to a von Neumann probe I'm talking about. A space-faring von Neumann probe should be mechanical, not biological. Anyway, something similar than von Neumann probe has been "made" before and could most likely be made again.

As far as I can see the only way to know for sure is try to build a self-replicating machine and see if it works. If we got even a crudest possible machine to replicate itself here on the Earth then I would say we can certainly build a spacheship that does the same. It will only require a more effort. 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.

Another requirement, of course, is that our von Neumann probe should be 100 percent free of any errors. The worst result of a failure would be that our probe harms us or someone (something) else really bad. The reason for a failure could be a flaw in the original software. Another possible reason could be a mutation: as probe generations pass, each new generation could be a little bit different than a previous generation. Theoretically these mutations could lead to a probe that has changed it's intended behaviour but other than that operates and replicates normally.

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.