Image of the Day: The "Ghost Stream" of the Knife Edge Galaxy
"The Black Cloud" - Could Life Exist in Clouds of Interstellar Dust?

Will the 1st Self-Replicating Machine Be Homo Sapiens Last Invention?

"Let an ultra-intelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an 'intelligence explosion,' and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make."

 I.J. Good

Good also predicted in 1965 that within 30 years humans would possess the capability to build machines smarter than ourselves.  While he has subsequently revised this estimate (upwards), Good feels certain it will happen no later than 2030.  Given that we are just beginning to explore what's possible with nanotechnology and Moore's Law shows no signs of slowing down, he may well be right.

The phrase technological singularity is a term of art among futurists and refers to the creation of an AI or enhanced human intelligence that begins to drive technological advancements farther, faster and beyond the ability of humans to participate.  While there is substantial disagreement between futurists as to when this will happen and the potential impact, there is surprising agreement that superhuman intelligence will happen.

As far back as 1958, some scientists were already predicting that technology would one day drive mankind to the point where radical changes would occur in life as we know it.  In a statement repeated for its prescience, Stanislaw Ulam, a polish mathematician who contributed greatly to the Manhattan Project, declared,

    "One conversation centered on the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue."

    —Ulam describing a conversation with John von Neumann (1958)

Leaving the geezers aside, Ray Kurzweill, admittedly amongst the more optimistic futurists, but one with a track record that should lend weight to anything the man says, feels certain the singularity is coming and that it will involve the integration of hardware with our wetware.  Kurzweill is of the opinion that you will have the internet in your head, total recall and most assuredly never lost again!  Recall Kramer blinking his eyes in order to activate the call waiting in his brain?  You will no longer be unavailable. Worse, you may be running on Microsoft.

I hope Kurzweill's right.  The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, to quote another eccentric.  As a species we've moved past natural selection.  We are now self-selecting.  Had I been born just one hundred years ago, my mouth would have been a mess.  Modern orthodontics, painless (relatively) dentistry.  Never mind coke bottle lens that would have condemned me to a life of near blindness had I been born even a hundred years earlier.

I remember the first time my dad brought home a remote control TV.  Old school dial phones.  I played Tank on the Atari 2600 and tried to teach myself to program.  I couldn't get past chapter 3 in the little spiral bound notebook of instructions that came with my Commodore 64, but I figured out how to play Zork quick enough.  Now we have chess computers capable of beating Grand Masters, although the best among us can still hold their own.  I was regularly defeated by a machine from Sears.

Ray Kurzweill has this to say,

    "Within 25 years, we'll reverse-engineer the brain and go on to develop super-intelligence. Extrapolating the exponential growth of computational capacity (a factor of at least 1000 per decade), we'll expand inward to the fine forces, such as strings and quarks, and outward. Assuming we could overcome the speed of light limitation, within 300 years we would saturate the whole universe with our intelligence."

The Singularity will happen.  It's inevitable.  Humanity will assimilate itself.  Science is about to rock our world!

Luke McKinney


For a nice scary short story on this, check out Robot Mother.

i agree that given the time we should be able to accomplish the self replicating machine, but i wouldn't say you can put a time to it. People are still far too busy with superstition,greed and war. 40 years ago i would have predicted a moon colony by 1980. If we don't hobble the human race, i would say that any goal is attainable in the near future. Right now, we are spending far more of our resources on killing each other than we are on doing science.

Pisces, I agree. What will happen first? Will we destroy ourselves before we ever reach the technological singularity? Or maybe the singularity will be the cause of our destruction. I sure hope not. The prospect of such an event is scary and exciting. I'm 40 years old right now, so I hope I'm around to see it. I think.

As long as we develop the P.W.A.R.W. first, there should be no problems is what will drive the change. Atomically precise manufacturing will probably lead to self-replicating machines that can improve themselves. We are on the edge of a future so far from our past the science fiction has been too conservative to predict it.

I really hope that we just are able to integrate this technology into our selves and I guess if we were all run by the same super net bot ( Google ) they will want the human race to progress and explore as super intelligent slaves and everyone would work together.

Technology may only improve mankinds physical capabilities; possibly including the electro/chemical synaptical brain processes, most of which still remain as a mystery to our scientific communities. What about the essence of humankind?Human emotions, just having fun in any of the unique ways any of the billions of individuals imagines, the concept of aesthetics, pure imagination... SEX!!! Can any software or hardware duplicate or improve?

[Will the 1st Self-Replicating Machine Be Homo Sapiens Last Invention?] @


So you think FDR was an eccentric? Hunh??

Unintentionally this is a very elitist discussion. Arguably 70-90% of the World have no knowledge of "selfreplication".

The technology availible today is "smarter" than 95% of the population.

People don't think for themselves but are part of a system that encourages what to think rather than how.

Our education system preserves only the status quo and is a source of control of the masses. Likewise religion and politics.

How can democracy have a voice when there is none now? How can self replicating nano technology contribute to benefiting life?

AsI write, an Earthquake measuring 8.8 has taken place in Chile. What are our priorities ? Are we just rubbing our artistic and technological ego's with this type of science and research.

When we discover how the human mind works then we will shock hubris.

Advancement of mankind needs some time out and we start to get our priorities in order.

Of course its all very academic isn't it? More than half the World starving. Water shortages, Global warming, less food being grown thanks to the need to grow bio fuels. Forests being cut down to support mining, bio fuel and oil industries.
What are we doing about it? Well first and foremost we must have breast enhancement, plastic surgery and all the other vanity treatments.
Then we manufacture disease so that the pharmateuctical industry can concentrate on the most profiatble medicines.

We can argue about self selection as long as its argued without religious grounds and self indulgent morality. Purely on science and technology. But there again where is the democracy in that? All are not technicians or scientists.
Should we allow science and technology to decide everything? Ceratinly politicians shouldn't! All they do is legislate so that those who control the World can continue .

Thanks for the word. As you understand the subject is far too deep to debate with a few lines.
Take good care and get as much joy as you can everyday.
Ps. Try music and art now and again.

A little post script. Minds have not become smarter and better as a result of the advancements you mention. On the contrary, we are being dummed down. Life isn't better for most! Life has been bettered for a few.

well baldchemist maybe you should sell all of your possessions and give the money to the hungry and injured. none of it betters your life.

The human race NEEDS self replicating factories NOW. They are inevitable. There are no scientific reasons why they cannot be produced. It is a matter of will and engineering and focused resources. Once we have self replicating self reproducing self repairing materials and factories they can be used to cheaply produce the most expensive, exotic new goods and materials and old goods and materials at dirt cheap costs. Add space asteroid resources and sunlight to that and you get dirt dirt dirt dirt cheap goods for EVERYONE.

The most expensive steels, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, food, clothes, cars, toys, electronics, computers, and everything made of atoms will be able to be replicated and duplicated to our hearts' content.

Ofcourse, new solutions always bring new problems. So we will have the ability to wipe out poverty and material lack and clean up pollution (self replicating pollution filtering scrubbing machines cure excess carbon in the air and pollutant atoms and even gather up and store nuclear waste in solid rock) but create new problems and put a twist on old problems:

Terrorists and Warmongers with the self replicators could do untold of damage, possible accidents and side effects (?) and even the issue of displaced people who need no jobs because they have self replicators but what will they do with all their new found time? I welcome comments and questions.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)