von Neumann machine
- A model for a computing machine that uses a single storage structure
to hold both the set of instructions on how to perform the computation
and the data required or generated by the computation. John von
Neumann helped to create the model as an example of a general-purpose
computing machine. By treating the instructions in the same way as the
data, the machine could easily change the instructions. In other words
the machine was reprogrammable.
- A self-replicating machine. In principle, if a machine (for example
an industrial robot) could be given enough capability, raw material,
and instructions then that robot could make an exact physical copy of
itself. The copy would need to be programmed in order to do anything.
If both robots were reprogrammable, then the original robot could be
instructed to copy its program to the new robot. Both robots would now
have the capability of building copies of themselves. Since such a machine
is capable of reproduction, it could arguably qualify as a simple form
of life. An early fictional treatment was the short story "Autofac"
by Philip K. Dick, published in 1955, which precedes von Neumann's original
paper about self-reproducing machines (von Neumann, J., 1966, The Theory
of Self-reproducing Automata, A. Burks, ed., Univ. of Illinois Press,
von Neumann probe
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, AND CYBERNETICS