About Universal Constructors

John von Neumann was a Hungarian mathematician born in 1903.

In 1966 his book on the Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata was published (posthumously).

In this book he wrote about machines that could reproduce themselves, called Universal Constructors. The environment for these he wrote about was Cellular automata, however he also talked about a kinetic variety, and the label now covers all manner of Self Replicating systems, particularly those which are general enough to interact with a wild environment and manufacture the required new components from gathered raw resources.

Such a system can be considered as a collection of processes. One possible split is:

  1. collection or generation of power and raw resources from the environment
  2. identification, transportation and storage of collected resources and manufactured components
  3. manufacture of components from collected resources
  4. assembly of components into new products (such as a duplicate of the system)
  5. information gathering, command and control, calibration and fault repair

A system that can manufacture the components required to duplicate itself is said to be Self-Replicating

A system that can assemble those components into the actual duplicate is said to be Self-Assembling

A true von Neumann Universal Constructor (as defined for the purposes of this Wiki) must be both Self-Replicating and Self-Assembling.

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