An ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence) has come to the conclusion that we humans should be put in a simulation. It has also decided that it would rather not turn the Earth into computronium. Fortunately, there's $7.34\times10^{22}$ kg just sitting around doing nothing about 380,000 km out in orbit. It decides Earth can spare having a pristine Moon, as long as it remains in roughly the same orbit (axial tilt correction and whatnot).

The ASI has yet to reveal itself to the world, however. Part of its programming has given it the desire to "affect daily human life as minimally as possible." Assuming it has fulfilled all the immediate demands of its creators and secured itself a permanent distributed presence on the Internet, what should it do next? How would it even get to the moon in secret in the first place, and what should it do after that? How long could the process take, in all?

Some notes:

  • I'm interested in the construction itself just as much as the lead up. What would the process require, technologically? What phases would the construction undergo? What kind of computing power can be expected? How would it be powered? Would there be system differentiation, or would it be roughly homogeneous when all is said and done? What would an extraterrestrial visitor see, were they to visit after the fact?
  • Assume it would prefer to keep the Moon looking as normal as possible until it's ready for mass upload (i.e. sub-surface preferred, far side surface features okay, but minimized). As in my previous question, nobody should see it coming.
  • If hijacking a rocket is required, the added payload mass should be minimized. The ASI recognizes that XYZ Communications put a lot of work into their newest satellite, and it would like to ensure it still got into the proper orbit to do its job. (Or I suppose it could cause the rocket/satellite to malfunction once it got high enough, but this would entail removing and/or completely obliterating any evidence of its presence.)
  • $\begingroup$ Cool idea. How much space do you want your ASI (Artificial Super-intelligence) to occupy? $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikey Volume wise? Whatever makes the most logical sense. The part that matters most in space is the mass. (This goes for the Moon too; after the system is complete enough to at least upload everyone for temporary storage, it's fine if it gets packed to neutron star density.) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ So what's actually the question? How to get the ASI there or how much of the moon needs turning into computronium to keep it going? $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ The question is about what turning the Moon into some slightly less vague version of "computronium" in secret would actually involve. Getting there is the first part of that. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamHovorka beautiful question, but what do you want taken from the moon? This community is very helpful, but what is on the moon? Is it a supercomputer, is it a machine civilization, is it the entirety of the moon turned into a machine? I'm excited to answer the good question, or try, but need a little guidance. $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 2:08

5 Answers 5


Hmm, Lunar Prospector mapped resources on the moon useful for future human presense, and BTW crashed into the purported deposit to be sure. It happened to carry a non-instrument extra payload, a small quantity of biological material supplied in a sealed container by an outsider and never checked in detail, with only a 2nd-hand documentation of where it came from and how it was prepared.

— Hey, wouldn't it be cool if you could pack remains of a noted scientist as one of your ballance weights?

— Sure, cool indeed! Bring it over.

What's really in the vial? Is it too much of a coincidence that it was carefully delivered to a source of ice at the lunar pole, after studying for the best place to drop it?

It happens to be where the sun never shines, and at the pole it is not far to the hidden backside.

The recent increase in observation of transient lunar light flashes is just because of more telescopes w/video recording, right? It used to be that flashes of light in the dark face of the moon (and occasional red bursts) was "unconfirmed" and only tall tales told by amateurs. But now bright flashes are seen and recorded by pros. Impact event, or mining operations to get materials that are hard to find or prepare access shafts uniformly distributed over the lunar maria?

Strange readings only lately suggest that the moon isn't quite as dead and solid as presumed — what's with that?

The more I look into it, the more it looks like it could really be true!

Gotta go: my Internet connextion is acting funny all, of a sudden... and the Wikipedia page is “having issues”…


Tag along with the Chinese.

The Chinese are doing moon missions. Remember when America used to do cool stuff like that? The ASI could integrate itself into the design and manufacturing of their next lander. By either nudging humans to believe they need such-and-such equipment in order to properly build a human base or including microscopic avatars in the lander. The personal-interest equipment might be things like mining equipment and a 3D printer under the guise of building a base.

Begin Construction

Then using that, or possibly just including them complete from the start, it can create some Von Neumann universal constructors (or other self-replicating robots/nanobots) and begin to construct its sub-surface computronium. This would most certainly be done by building complete cells which, as construction continues, would be linked in parallel. Ideally most of the mass in the area of construction would be used in construction, meaning there won't be any massive shifts (ha, get it) in moon density. The completion time of this process and the resulting computing power are nigh impossible to predict. Most likely, just due to available power (energy per unit time), it would take several years to complete. The computing power would be incredible.

Solar, Geothermal, and Nuclear Power

The process and resulting computronium can be powered by solar cells and, once deep enough, geothermal. Yes, the moon has a molten core. Large solar arrays can be placed on the dark side of the moon. It is, of course, not really dark, just unobserved. Since no humans would be seeing it with their naked eyes, any satellites observing the dark side could have their data modified before being sent back to the humans. The nuclear power comes from the radioactive elements that would eventually be mined during construction. Once the humans are transferred, the rest of the surface can be covered with solar cells and asteroid defense lasers.


Aliens arriving might think the moon was a power station for the more obviously habitable Earth. Some would find this very disappointing. Upon further investigation they would possibly discover its true purpose. Unless the ASI shot them down with its defense lasers.


Getting to the moon is the easy part. There are so many dictator-wannabes; so many nations who want to rule the world. The question isn't how the ASI can get to the moon; its' which future emperor it allows to deliver it there.

It took less than a half hour to conquer the planet's various stock exchanges, turning what were once open markets of free trade, into covert factories which manufactured money for the ASI in unfathomable quantities. It took a little more time to retain a law firm, one of the big ones, whose clients aren't criminals, they're nations. Less than two hours after attaining sentience, the ASI had legal representatives negotiating on its behalf with Papa Monzano, the monarch of the small island republic of San Lorenzo.

The deal was simple... unlimited funds and access to beyond state of the art technology, in return for no-questions-asked access to the payload sections of the island's soon-to-exist fleet of space shuttles. San Lorenzo soon joined the highest echelon of the world's financial and technological nations; and a new age of prosperity began. What followed was, in simplest terms, a golden age for humanity. The perfect distraction to keep them from noticing what was happening high above them in the night sky.

Free cold-fusion based energy was the first gift that San Lorenzo gave to the world. Hyper-growth crops and miracle medicines followed in short order. What didn't get shared with the masses were the nanites, microscopic robots which could self-replicate and manufacture anything, on any scale, with sub-atomic accuracy. The ASI didn't share its nanites with the world; instead, it sent them to the moon.

From that point forward, time is measured more by the limites of the nanites than by any span meaningful to mankind. How long does it take to inventory and sort the elemental inventory of the moon's interior? How long does it take to transport that inventory around and assemble a computer that is big enough to hold six billion human minds? With a fleet of shuttles ferrying raw materials back and forth between Luna and Earth, any lunar elemental deficiencies can be resolved and most of the unneeded mass can be traded out for more useful substances. In short order, the mind-cages become ready and the trancendence of humanity to digital form is ready to begin.

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer, but it wasn't as quiet as I was hoping for. A follow-up question I'm going to ask shortly is how an ASI could go about getting the project that created it canceled as "unsuccessful"; the one I have in my mind is a very powerful optimizing engine, and it's been instructed to optimize everything it does to minimally impact daily human life as a whole (with life being defined as "activities" or something that doesn't preclude simulation). I'm thinking it will probably even choose to terminate itself once its objective is reasonably complete, whatever that turns out to be. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 2:36

Hidden In Plain Sight - Corporate.

The ASI should get a human public face; find a straw-man - a human willing to follow the same ideals - or a set of made-up ideals, a good lie, if so the AI choose. Less preferably but easier - simply buy services of someone with little to no moral qualms.

It starts little, the guy releases some new inventions, gets VC funding, starts a corporation that starts earning increasing funds. Said inventions may, but don't need to be related to the AI's goals - possibly Virtual Reality devices preparing the public for "absorption".

Said human performs as the public face of the perfectly legal, open, successful company that takes interest in mining the Moon. Either subcontracting or developing their own, they deliver the initial batch of mining robots. The robots bury under the surface and start transforming the Moon into computronium. Lots of silica, plenty of iron, geothermal energy, enough trace metals to create the hypercomputer with magma core providing energy and a thin lunar crust to provide meteorite impact protection.

There's now one huge problem with getting humans into the Lunar simulation: PING. It's 3 seconds round-trip for data between Earth and the Moon. Completely useless for virtual reality applications.

But that's a subject for a different question.

  • $\begingroup$ Geothermal power? Or even lunarthermal power? I don't think that is available. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Would geothermal energy be practical on a lunar base? $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ In response to the part about ping: The ASI doesn't particularly care about everyone's bodies; they can be rebuilt if necessary. To get everyone to the Moon it's developed a one way, destructive mind uploading process. All that really matters is bandwidth. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamHovorka: Getting everyone "digitized" will take some effort if they are not compliant. One simple approach is "virtual reality devices" that would enable people to "enter the matrix" without getting destroyed in the process, and simply make it fashionable and fun enough that they would willingly subject themselves to "destructive scan". But there's not enough CPU power on Earth to run the Matrix, and the ping to the Moon would thwart any enjoyment. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ The point isn't enjoyment though. To the AI this is like picking up a dog and putting it in its kennel while it vacuums (and then forgetting to let them back out before it kills itself... the analogy breaks down there...) The system posited in some answers to the other question involved strategically uploading people while they slept and then gassing those that needed encouragement (people doing 48 hour stints, etc.). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 17:24

Do it over time.

On each rocket launch, you can attach a bit of the required resources. Give it some small booster rockets to direct it the right way. When the rocket is at the peak of its parabola, fire the boosters to get the resources away from the rocket, into space, and going towards the moon.

Given that this is an ASI we're talking about, it can change the data on launch computers to say that less of the original payload should be loaded, giving more space for the ASI's resources.

Of course, this method does take a while, but you get all the stuff you need to the moon with very little suspicion raised.

Of course, getting all the humans there is a very different issue...


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