The Interstellar Ethics of Self-Replicating Probes

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K. Cooper (2014), JBIS, 67, pp.258-260

Refcode: 2014.67.258
Keywords: von Neumann probes, self-replication, interstellar probes

Robotic spacecraft have been our primary means of exploring the Universe for over 50 years. Should interstellar travel become reality it seems unlikely that humankind will stop using robotic probes. These probes will be able to replicate themselves ad infinitum by extracting raw materials from the space resources around them and reconfiguring them into replicas of themselves, using technology such as 3D printing. This will create a colonising wave of probes across the Galaxy. However, such probes could have negative as well as positive consequences and it is incumbent upon us to factor self-replicating probes into our interstellar philosophies and to take responsibility for their actions.

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