There is a lot of talk about how robots will be taking over the work force from manufacturing to surgery. What is the ultimate extreme science-fiction-to-reality goal? Swarm robotics. Robots that make other robots and configure themselves in new ways for novel applications. Recent advances and self-replicating robotic challenges are summarized here by Matthew Williams of www.herox.com.
Early pioneering thought on this comes from nanotechnologist Robert Freitas Jr. (Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines) and the 1980 NASA study entitled “Advanced Automation for Space Missions.” It is essentially a plan for a self-replicating automated lunar robots.
The NASA study echoes recent sentiments of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk about the dangers of AI. It quotes science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and his Three Laws of Robotics (1950): 1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; 2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with tile First or Second Laws. A summary of the NASA study is here.