Growing the Interstellar Probe (Centauri Dreams)
Freitas later turned to nanotech ideas in advocating a probe more or less the size of a sewing needle, with a millimeter-wide body and enough nanotechnology onboard to activate assemblers on the surface of whatever object it happened to find in the destination system.
Now we're looking at a biological variant of this concept that could, if extended, be turned to self-replication. Rothemund says that he wants to write molecular programs that can build technology. A probe built along these lines could use local materials to create the kind of macro-scale objects needed to form a research station around another star, the kind of equipment we once envisioned boosting all the light years to our target. How much simpler if we can build the needed tools when we arrive?
Are Von Neumann Probes Ethical? (Chris Wren)
Von Neumann probes would be small, self-replicating robots. Small, easy to manufacture in large numbers and because of their low mass, easy to accelerate t
We're still grappling with the ethics - and unforeseen consequences - involved with releasing genetically modified strains of crops into the environment. There are always unforeseen consequences with any technology. The more sophisticated the technology, the more extensive and impossible to foresee those consequences are certain to be.
Would a more advanced civilization, if they were also more ethically developed than we are (not hard to imagine) consider von Neumann probes a form of cancer and take steps to eradicate them? Worse, would they take punitive measures against any civilization irresponsible enough to set them loose?"
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