What is universal constructor? - Definition from WhatIs.com


universal constructor

Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

A universal constructor is a device that can self-replicate - that is, make copies of itself. Self-replication is important in the fields of robotics and nanotechnology .

Scientists at Bath University (U.K.) speculate that a universal constructor could increase in numbers exponentially, evolve by Darwinian natural selection, and be reasonable in cost. Such a machine could physically grow by assembling multiple-unit components into something larger. For example, an entire house or building could be built up from many identical components clamped together.

Universal constructors could produce an unlimited variety of consumer and industrial products. It has been suggested that the devices could allow anyone to become a small-scale manufacturer, thus increasing general wealth and reducing the need for massive industrial plants. Self-replicating machines could be a boon to society in general in similarly limitless ways, for example by turning garbage into useful hardware.

Although universal constructors offer the potential of far-reaching benefits, some people fear potential risks, such as unforeseen economic disruption and misuse by people with nefarious intent.

This was last updated in July 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms


  • photonics

    - Photonics is an area of study that involves the use of radiant energy (such as light), whose fundamental element is the photon. (WhatIs.com)

  • laser

    - A laser is a coherent and focused beam of photons; coherent, in this context, means that it is all one wavelength, unlike ordinary light which showers on us in many wavelengths. The acronym laser s... (WhatIs.com)

  • cyberextortion

    - Cyberextortion is a crime involving an attack or threat of attack against an enterprise, coupled with a demand for money to avert or stop the attack. (SearchSecurity.com)


  • Computing fundamentals

    - Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question About universal constructorPowered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Tech TalkComment



    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.