Skip to content

Question of the Week: Will nanotechnology at some point create the grey goo?

Question of the Week, 27.09.2010

For years, many members of the scientific community have been excited by the prospect of nanotechnology, the design of machines and robots on a molecular scale. But scientific ethicists and environmental activists are increasingly alarmed by its potential abuses. There is a problem so called “Grey goo problem” which expect that if at some point self-replicating machines with ability to build themselves from the surrounding atoms will be created. Gray goo is what would happen if one of those auto-assemblers went out of control and the self-replication never stopped.

But some people say it is impossible. Their main arguments are:

A grey goo robot would face a much harder task than merely replicating itself. It would also have to survive in the environment, move around, and convert what it finds into raw materials and power. This would require sophisticated chemistry. None of these functions would be part of a molecular manufacturing system. A grey goo robot would also need a relatively large computer to store and process the full description of such a complex device. A nanobot or nanomachine missing any part of this functionality could not function as grey goo.

So could Gray goo happen or not is still open question.

Yuriy Khalavka