Definition

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

Definitions

  • Schrodinger's cat

    - Schrodinger's cat explained: This definition describes Schrodinger's famous thought experiment and its place in quantum theory. (WhatIs.com)

  • flash storage

    - Flash storage, based on flash memory, is used for data repositories, storage systems and consumer devices, such as USB drives, smartphones and solid-state drives. Flash-based storage is faster than... (WhatIs.com)

  • six degrees of separation

    - Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • 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

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

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