[Quick Disclaimer] I am a game developer, working on an upcoming game, set in distant future. It’s a strategy where you dig deep into the crust to mine resources and construct an underground town of robots lead by self replicating AI.
Main idea? Von Neumann Probes!
Classic concept usually envisions an advanced civilisation (or even one alien person) making a single probe capable if space travel, resource gathering and self replication. If such apparatus will ever exist, it can find planets with required resources, land on them, mine them and make copies of itself. After that the process will repeat for each copy, and in just several million years (which is just a glimpse in the age of our universe) you will get an entire Galaxy “consumed” and swarming by this things.
And, the trick is, it’s not even hard to do. I mean even with our todays tech, we are pretty close to make one.
Now I was thinking about the concept a lot, and the way I see it, a Von Nueman probe is more realistically a complicated system of different parts, instead of just one probe. Some parts are important to be replicated, some parts can be used for mining and then left as garbage. Obviously a probe will be carrying a digital blueprint of how it’s made. But here comes the cool part. The initial designer, can make it so, that the replication blue-print data is stored in a special format, such that slight imperfections will not make it totally corrupt. The other part will be to actually make it sometimes HAVE a certain percent of imperfections during blue-print copy process. Given, there are millions of years ahead, This will definitely kickstart an evolutionary system of probes, that will with time get actually better at self replicating and mining as time goes by, even without any outside intervention.
If you let your imagination ran wild, you can see how a simple probe, can with time evolve into a huge complicated system of different parts, each having their own designated job. Taking concept even further. Some parts may not be always connected to a central “brain”, and have their own neural networks, and maybe even having their own agendas.
Of course shaped by evolutionary process their agendas and social behaviours will perfectly lead to the probe replication in most efficient way.
So in deep town, we don’t just have one device that just digs down. Instead we have tons of robots, and several AI’s, that talk to each other. Swarming the galaxy. Outpacing and outliving any other biological life. That could have developed.
Who knows. Maybe the last photons of universe accepting it’s heat death, will land on a camera lense of sleeping probe. After we are long gone.