#AtoZChallenge – Grey goo, the machine apocolypse


Time for G in my Sci-Fi themed A-to-Z Challenge!


What happens if a 3D printer can print more 3D printers? Machines that can build copies of themselves are called von Neumann Machines. There has been real-world research into self-replicating machines, but nothing can yet build a perfect copy of itself, by itself.

That’s probably a good thing.

Machines that can build copies of themselves using materials around them could potentially consume all matter! Nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler described this possible doomsday scenario in his research,and it has since popped up in various forms in sci-fi. Recently, there’s been a game called Grey Goo involving machines that self-replicate, but I have to admit I haven’t checked it out.

Could such a thing happen?


Probably not. Drexler himself later conceded that it probably wouldn’t be necessary to build a self-replicating machine. Why go through the trouble of giving a machine the ability to build a copy of itself and perform whatever function it’s actually designed for? Pretty inefficient, actually.

If self-replicating machines were actually needed, they could be built with controls. I’m willing to bet anyone who wants to build such machines would also want a way to turn them off!


More about grey goo: