Browse Definitions:
Definition

gray goo (or grey goo)

Gray goo (or, in British spelling, "grey goo") is a term used to describe what life on our planet might become if self-replicating robots or nanomachines got out of control and began to use up life forms for their own energy needs in some unstoppable way.

The term was first used in K. Eric Drexler in his seminal book about nanotechnology, Engines of Creation. Michael Crichton's Prey is one of several science fiction novels about gray goo catastrophes. The possibility of all of us becoming a lifeless conglomeration of gray goo, whether by accident or by robotic intent, is considered exceedingly unlikely. However, it has been taken seriously enough by one researcher, Robert Freitas, to suggest some public policy recommendations.

In self-replication at the "nano" or molecular level, some source of energy would be needed and it would seem that these would be the same sources used by life forms or from life forms themselves (just as human beings derive energy from eating other animals that have obtained their energy from lower life forms). In the competition for energy with nanomachines, human beings might find themselves unable to adapt quickly enough through natural evolution, ultimately falling prey to their own intellectual creations.

A significant argument against the possibility of a gray goo situation is that engineers should be able to build in limiting conditions for self-replication. One writer, Chris Phoenix, says that it is as unlikely that a molecular manufacturing system could degenerate into unstoppable self-replication as that a drill press or lathe might self-replicate. Phoenix refers to nanorobots that self-replicate only for the limited purpose of a specific task, such as cleaning and closing a wound.

Variations on this term include:

  • Black goo or red gloo, the use of nanomachines by terrorists or nihilist to destroy all or some segment of humanity.
  • Pink gloo, a view of humanity itself, which can be seen as a self-replicating entity with a tendency to fill up existing space.
  • Green gloo, the idea of some antidote to the tendency of pink gloo to spread, perhaps limiting its ability to reproduce.

See a video, The invasion of gray goo:

This was last updated in February 2016

Continue Reading About gray goo (or grey goo)

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Interesting theory. I'll never see it in my lifetime. The closet thing we have today to something using up others energy and lifeforce are politicians.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

  • audit program (audit plan)

    An audit program, also called an audit plan, is an action plan that documents what procedures an auditor will follow to validate ...

SearchSecurity

  • insider threat

    Insider threat is a generic term for a threat to an organization's security or data that comes from within.

  • ransomware

    Ransomware is a subset of malware in which the data on a victim's computer is locked, typically by encryption, and payment is ...

  • hacker

    A hacker is an individual who uses computer, networking or other skills to overcome a technical problem.

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

SearchStorage

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • 3D XPoint

    3D XPoint is memory storage technology jointly developed by Intel and Micron Technology Inc.

  • RRAM or ReRAM (resistive RAM)

    RRAM or ReRAM (resistive random access memory) is a form of nonvolatile storage that operates by changing the resistance of a ...

  • JEDEC

    JEDEC is a global industry group that develops open standards for microelectronics.

SearchCloudStorage

  • Google Cloud Storage

    Google Cloud Storage is an enterprise public cloud storage platform that can house large unstructured data sets.

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

Close