aka: Self Replicating Machine
Von Neumann probes, self-replicating machines, terraformers, Xenon, even the Enemy of God. But at its core, it was really only one thing; artificial general intelligence, mechanical minds capable of making themselves even more intelligent, and then again, and again, recursively forever.
Life makes life, as we all know
. In other cases, life makes artificial life
. This trope, however, continues that cycle as those artificial lifeforms make their own artificial lifeforms.
There's a variation where the artificial lifeform (usually
a machine) is self-replicating
, a... Self Replicating Machine
, if you will. It's usually the domain of Nanobots
everywhere, which is what makes them so dangerous
And just when you thought Turned Against Their Masters
was an exclusive Human/Robot trope, this may also lead too Robots Enslaving Robots
May show Mechanical Evolution
or Clone Degeneration
. See also, Creating Life
Has nothing to do with a Recursive Reality
or Recursive Fanfiction
Anime and Manga
- Multiplicity: Overworked guy creates clone to do his work for him. Overworked clone creates clone...
- The android girl (called synthetics) in Alien: Resurrection is from a line of synthetics designed by synthetics rather than humans.
- Screamers: See Second Variety below.
- Terminator: Skynet builds and designs new Terminators and other war machines.
- The plot of Feet of Clay revolves around golems creating a "king" golem. It doesn't go so well.
- The eponymous (and autonomous) spaceships of Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series.
- The Hypotheticals from Robert Charles Wilson's novels Spin and Axis are of the Von Neumann type seen below
- The short story Second Variety by Philip K Dick has a handful of US Marines find out what has been happening since they gave the deadly robots built to fight off the new URSS the capability to reproduce simply because they were so dangerous nobody wanted to work on them anymore. It's not pleasant.
- The story was adapted into the movie Screamers
- The plot of Von Neumann's War, a military SF novel by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor, Earth is attacked by Von Neumann devices, which are self replicating robots.
- A later story arc in The History of the Galaxy series involves an invasion of known space by self-replicating machines created long ago by a race only starting to explore the galaxy as automated explorers and colony creators. Unfortunately, when the machines returned centuries later, the found newer machines. Since their programming included adaptability to external threats, they proceeded to destroy the newer machines and their creators. They made many copies of themselves and continue their primary task of exploration. However, if they meet an unknown race, they automatically treat it as an enemy.
- Ur Example: Long before the Von Neumann Machine concept appeared in fiction, William Paley's Natural Theology (1802) posited a hypothetical 'watch' that could make copies of itself, as part of a lengthy theological argument claiming proof of God.
- Madeline Ashby's Machine Dynasty series has von Neumann androids who eat plastics, metals, and e-waste to grow and give birth to robot babies. Some of them marry humans and raise children together.
- In Star Control 2, the Slylandro Probe is a faultily-programmed self-replicating robot spaceship which will first greet your ship in a friendly manner... then try to break it up for parts to make more probes.
- In the backstory of the X-Universe series Earth built several fleets of self-replicating, artificially intelligent terraforming drones (sometimes described as "Von Neumann machines" in the literature and the opening cinematic of X3: Terran Conflict). Things went pear-shaped due to a faulty (or deliberately sabotaged; reports vary) software update, most of Earth's colonies were destroyed, and Earth nearly so. The surviving bugged drones evolved into the games' Xenon, which seek to "terraform" all biological life out of existence.
- The Multiplicity example is replicated in a Simpsons Halloween Episode, parodying the former.
- A good one from Transformers Generation One. Wheeljack creates the Dinobots from scratch. Years later Grimlock, leader of the Dinobots created the Technobots from scratch. Arguably all of the Transformers count since they were given life by Vector Sigma, a computer, and built by the Quintessons. Not sure if they're fully machine though.
- The entire idea behind The Singularity is that a chain of self-replication among machines of super-human computational ability will render the world completely unrecognizable.
- The entire premise behind the Von Neumann machines.
- It's not quite self-replication, but the RepRap is a 3D printer, which can construct (among other things) almost all the parts needed to build another RepRap.