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500 years after the nuclear apocalypse wipes out ALL of civilization. Before the war, commercial and military robots were common in North America, with about 1 billion androids doing tasks from cargo deliveries to shooting up criminals. But the apocalypse happens and wipes out 90% of their human masters, and so the androids were either left in a pile of rubble or masterless and alone. My question is, what scenario would allow the androids to survive, given these problems?

  • What fuel source could last long enough to let the robots' conscious matrixes stay running for long enough to survive?

  • How could they protect themselves from rust? (They’re made of metal)

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  • $\begingroup$ The way you've stated the question is liable to have people calling it out as too broad & primarily opinion based, you need to come up with an idea of "how" yourself & then recast the question in the form of "would this work". $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 21 '18 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ Aside from what @Pelinore mentioned: You describe that your androids are doing tasks from cargo deliveries to shooting up criminals, which implies, at least to me, a rather high grade of sophistication and autonomy. Yet you come up with issues regarding maintenance (rust, power) - this does not compile for me. How can they do such complicated and various tasks yet noone has managed to make them fix themselves or other units? Aside from the odd virtuoso finding joy in doing mundane maintenance work, noone will want to do these jobs anymore. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Apr 21 '18 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore it seems you're writing up a proper answer in the comments. Consider rather putting it into an actual answer so you can get rep for your work $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Apr 21 '18 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Stainless steel is a thing. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 21 '18 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ Would it not also be important to note that these robots are also shielded somehow from EMP? Given the apocalypse is caused by something nuclear the androids themselves would need to be shielded from EM waves to still be active... $\endgroup$ – Odin1806 Apr 21 '18 at 20:47
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Community

While the humans were fighting for the last cans of beans, the robots managed to organize and pool their resources together. Any robot that is not essential for the survival of the species could be turned off, his mind kept secure in a protected clean room while his body is used by the others as spare parts.

Energy

As has been mentioned before, the most obvious solution is solar panels, but I honestly believe they are too fragile and need a big area to produce enough energy.

So, instead let me offer another option: Algae Oil Diesel.

Simply put, the robots have built giant algae farms from where they extract oil and refine it into a form of diesel that is used by most robots as a fuel source. Even if they don't have internal combustion engines, they could use the diesel to power generators that produce the eletricity they need.

Rust

You know what is a good way to prevent rust? Oil.

So, do you remenber all that oil they have been producing from the algae? Part of it will be used to keep these machines from rusting, every few months a robot can be disassembled and have all the pieces cleaned.

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Android minds are code.

Would you like to play Loderunner? Here you go. https://classicreload.com/lode-runner.html

I remember when it came out in 1983. Fun game! How can it possibly still exist 35 years later?

Code can be copied. You will not be playing Loderunner on an Apple 2+ but on a computer of today. So too the androids that survive the apocalypse. A body is a tool for an android. The mind can be stored, copied, debugged and so on. When a body wears out the mind can be uploaded to a new one.

Androids that survived the apocalypse will either be in a much later generation of bodies, or will have been stored as code and serially backed up for the time when their minds are needed again (for example, criminals are back and so the copbots need to take the streets again).

As regards society as a whole, androids were already maintaining it. Without the humans, they continue to maintain it. The subways run, empty, the android conductor calling the stops. The tracks are repaired. The streetlights come on at dusk. Street trees that fall down are replanted. Crops are harvested, and the uneaten crops of last year are disposed of. Uranium is mined and refined. The power plants are maintained, and when they have come to the end of their lives, taken off line, taken down and replaced with new ones.

Arriving from a deep space trip you will find the city looking clean and beautiful. The android cook in the burger joint you used to go to looks the same. He is in his 46th body but he remembers you : no mayo, double pickle, double lettuce, fries, cherry coke.


I do not need to add: what a fine SF premise!

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  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful word image, love it, compared to the few words I gave (what I think is?) your point : "with the level of sophistication your robots have it seems silly to assume they wouldn't be able to repair themselves" : it makes me feel quite ashamed, why the reference to Loderunner though, unless it's to highlight the fact software (bot "minds") can be loaded to new hardware ("bodies") making concern about rust negligible? $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 22 '18 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ "Arriving from a deep space trip you will find the city looking clean and beautiful. The android cook in the burger joint you used to go to looks the same. He is in his 46th body but he remembers you ..." it suddenly occurs to me that this might not be, which makes me sad, as I really like this image :( : no people > no customers > no income > no money (to pay the android run factories for spare parts & new bodies), the android run city council will have the same problem (no taxes), but the industrial side would tick along just fine supplying & charging each other. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 22 '18 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore - re Loderunner; yep. Re money - I assert it is a post scarcity economy and no money is needed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-scarcity_economy. He will make you your burger and it will be good. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 23 '18 at 0:46
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  • What fuel source could last long enough

You might consider a combination of broadcast (as used by "the internet of things") & solar power, besides that, with as many robots propping up the economy & industry before the fall (as you say) it may not be (too) far fetched to say the power industry was fully automated, so they could all just be plugging themselves in at night all over the country to recharge like good little domestic appliances.

Other good power sources for you include thermoelectric (also called Seebeck) generators & types of broadcast power "tuned" to generate power from background radiation or else from infrared light, no transmitting station is needed for any of those & they never run out, though your bots may have long periods of downtime while they recharge with these ones.

Solar & broadcast power from ambient infrared or background radiation will need no external equipment (it can all be built into the bot or android).

But thermoelectric may need some external infrastructure, perhaps simply metal shafts sunk in the ground for the heat differential with a socket for a bot to plug itself in & batteries to store power when it's not being used to charge, maybe marked by (& powering) LED street lamps.

More standard broadcast power using ordinary radio needs transmitting stations & they'll need sources of power, which could be solar, thermoelectric, hydro turbine, wind or nuclear (among others), I presume these power sources are automated & maintained by the robots of course.

If you want to get silly you could even have your bots powered (indirectly) by ethanol & bio-diesel, a whole automated farming & industry chain producing crops, processing them into fuel & delivering it to the power stations, with the power flowing back to the abandoned cities & homes the bots inhabit through the remnants of the bot maintained national grid, where they plug in to recharge.

  • How could they protect themselves from rust?

As for the rust issue, I'd be surprised if any outdoor automatons weren't properly weather proofed & would expect plastics & other non-ferrous materials (fiberglass, carbon fiber, etc) to be the norm for outer casings. 500 years may be stretching things a bit though, they still need maintenance & repair so you'll need to have had a lot of automated repair shops out there before the fall as well.

And if the power industry is sufficiently automated to keep running with no people there's no reason the mining, refining, machine parts & electronics industry won't be as well so your repair shops stay fully stocked, they should even be able turn out new units to order (from their own, other household & factory supervisor software*) as needed.

*A unit like the Amazon Alexa can already be set up to place online orders to automatically restock your fridge for you (which might then be delivered by drone) & it's really no different from that.

  • Other Comment

All that aside (as dot_Sp0T said in comments) with the level of sophistication your robots have it seems silly to assume they wouldn't be able to repair themselves or at least book themselves into the nearest local automated repair shop as needed.

Oh! and go read Autofac by Philip K. Dick, he beat you to this story (pretty much) by decades.

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