Seed Factories and Self-Improving Systems

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An example of fully automated vehicle assembly. This represents the end point of a production chain included in a Seed Factory. Note the lack of human workers.


 Human-defined systems have characteristics of interest, such as size, monetary value, or output rate. A change in these parameters in a desired direction is considered an improvement. Self-improvement is when the change is produced by internal action of the system. Self-improvement has occurred throughout history in many ways, such the as evolution of life, or the development of civilization.

 In this book we consider a new type of production system, a Seed Factory. It is specifically designed for self-improvement by a recursive process. Part of the factory's production capacity can be used to make more equipment for the factory itself. The enlarged factory then has a greater capacity for further expansion. Since output is proportional to how much equipment you have, total capacity can grow exponentially. The remaining capacity makes useful end products, like any other factory. The fraction used for self-improvement can vary over time, according to whatever goals the factory operators choose There are many potential uses for such self-improving production systems, and we present several examples in the later sections of the book.

 Seed factories are different from conventional factories, which typically produce a fixed range of products at a fixed rate. Instead, the range of products they can make, and the rate at which they can produce them, vary continuously over time. The "seed" is a starter set of equipment designed to grow in three ways:

  • Replication - making copies of its own parts so as to eventually copy the entire set.
  • Diversification - making parts for new types of equipment, expanding the range of possible outputs.
  • Scaling - making parts for larger (or smaller) size equipment than the starter set.

 The factory is also designed as an integrated system. It brings together multiple production steps from raw materials and energy to finished items. Each section of the factory produces resources needed by other sections to function, making it more self-sustaining over time. Factories can be localized (in one place) or distributed (sections in multiple places). They may start with manual tools and equipment, but try to take advantage of modern information technology, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Integrated processes can also take waste outputs from one step, and use them as inputs for another. The combination of integration and modern technologies results in a highly efficient design.

 As the factory expands, it can produce a growing variety of products for end users. As it diversifies it can also make an increasing percentage of parts for its own growth. The small size and relative simplicity of the starter set makes it low cost, while the much larger capacity it evolves to can produce a high income. Combined with the low operating cost from integrated processes and automation, this type of system should be very desirable on an economic basis.

 Although it is a new way to organize production, Seed Factories build on past experience in fields like Industrial Technology and Engineering. This book will describe the concept of Seed Factories in more detail, methods for designing them, and give several design examples. It is being written as part of a project to develop the first working Seed Factory prototypes.

Table of Contents[edit]

1.0: Introduction[edit]

2.0: Concept History and Development[edit]

  1. Research & Development

3.0: Design Concepts[edit]

  1. Motivations and Economics
  2. Technical Concepts
  3. New Ideas
  4. Reference Architecture

4.0: Design Process[edit]

  1. Functional Analysis & Allocate Requirements
  2. Alternatives & System Modeling
  3. Production Processes
  4. Equipment Types

5.0: Personal Production[edit]

  1. Requirements
  2. Functions
  3. Allocation
  4. Modeling and Alternatives
  5. Starter Set
  6. Operations Flows

6.0: The MakerNet[edit]

  1. Requirements

7.0: Industrial Production[edit]

8.0: Remote and Difficult Locations[edit]

9.0: Conceptual Design Notes[edit]

page 1: General Notes || Notes for Section 5.0 - Community Factory: Requirements, Functions
page 2: System Modeling
page 3: Alternatives, Habitation, Transport, Production Technologies
page 4: Production Alternatives
page 5, page 6, page 7: Develop Alternatives
page 8: Design Baseline
page 9: Notes for Section 7.0 - Distributed Production Network
page 10: Notes transferred from Space Transport Wikibook