The Slow War is almost over. The Machines appeared almost twenty years ago, and since then we've all but lost humanity without them firing a single shot. Instead they won through brute industrial might. We could destroy thousands of their harvester drones, but they would simply build tens of thousands more and continue slowly stripmining the planet and converting it into a vast self repairing Factory, utterly unconcerned with human resistance. Some theorise that they're an alien Von Neumann machine, others that it's a human experiment gone wrong. Ultimately it doesn't matter: The Machines rule all but a few patches of the world, and they're utterly unstoppable.

The odd thing is that The Machines clearly adapt to their surroundings, and they’re smart. New designs of Machine are created almost daily to better exploit local geography, environmental conditions, and resources. Intelligent decisions are evident in the behaviour of the machines: they aren’t just dumbly following programming, but are actively and creatively responding to issues they encounter on the surface.

Dangerous entities like volcanos are capped and ‘made safe’, unstable cliffs or land are reinforced until they can be properly harvested, and the last human holdouts are surrounded by structures that almost look like mechanical cyst walls, seething with repair and harvester drones as the ever-growing Factory attempts to engulf them entirely.

So why haven’t the Machines started actively hunting humans? They are a big threat/source of resistance and are relatively easy to deal with compared to taming a volcano, but the Machines instead treat us with stunning indifference. Some parties even report that in the depths of the Factory humans are utterly ignored even though sabotaging the Factory can cause huge amounts of damage that needs repairing.

Why don’t the machines strike at humanity in order to remove a threat?


1: This world is very much defined by the Machines and their undeniable existence. How we got to the point where 'humanity is on the verge of being wiped out by a machine that doesn't care about them' is not of concern, nor is how the story progresses from this point. The Machines and the Factory aren't characters in a story: They are the world, and I'm purely interested in establishing a motivation for why the world as it stands doesn't instantly lead to humanity becoming extinct.

2: In order to provide some guidelines to avoid purely opinion based answers a good answer will cover these points: a: Does it address the machine's indifference? Answers that decrease how much the machines react to humanity are better. b: Does it also cover why the machines would act intelligently towards other threats? Answers which allow for higher intelligence behind the design of the Factory/Machines and their slow spread over the planet are better. c: Simpler answers are better. A simple motivation that leads to the outcome of not killing humans as a side-effect is preferable to a complex one that exists solely for the purposes of not killing humans.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 22 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Hey Joe! // go & give Nicol Wollaston's answer a gander // it meets all of your addendum 2 requirements. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 22 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ It takes a lot more time travelling through a forest than it does travelling through an open plain. So when you're going through a forest, why aren't you spending time uprooting the trees so you can then walk faster? $\endgroup$ – Flater Apr 22 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ Because organics will die anyway when the planet becomes a Machine World and you won't get the Genocidal diplomatic malus if you don't overtly subject them to violence. $\endgroup$ – Nick Dzink Apr 22 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Capping a volcano may not be the best way to make it safe. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Apr 23 at 4:04

28 Answers 28


Because they think that humans could be useful in the future

After losing the war, the humans still pose a threat to the machines, but not an existential one. They are just a nuisance.

But the machines know that it would be unwise to wipe out the humans. They recognize that they are something completely different, but also very complex (as chemistry, as mindset, as thought logic...).
The machines know that the universe is unforgiving and that it in the future unthinkable and unpredictable threats could arise. The machines are production-oriented, but lack creative thinking or the ability to see problems from different perspective and they know it.

Humans, at the eyes of the machines, are source of valuable, complex and hard-to-replicate chemical processes, which could come handy in the future.

The machines were able to overcome humans this time, but the next organic menace (attacking Earth, or living in the next planet they will decide to conquer) could be a lot more challenging: it is better to keep a small sample of organic creatures in nature, to use as a case of study, as a knowledge resource or even as an ally in case of problems.

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    $\begingroup$ And then they plug the humans into a battery farm/VR simulation which inexplicably runs the 90’s on a loop. Everyone wears sunglasses and black leather coats. There are lots of guns. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 20 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ I like this! The germ of a fine SF idea. The conquerors keep conquered species in a preserve, for possible later use. This idea would also apply to persons protecting the universe from supernatural threats. Very nice. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 20 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ Humans are a resource that once depleted, they are gone forever. Their minor annoyances are worth a potential future benefit, even it isn't clear what that future benefit will be. $\endgroup$ – abestrange Apr 21 at 0:13

Because their programming doesn't allow them.

The most likely way for a realistic AI to become "hostile" to mankind is because it learned something in a way we didn't intent to. As an example an AI that works perfectly has to learn how to deal with a humanitarian crisis so you teach the AI how to deal with it. The AI performs perfectly, making the right decisions to minimize casualties. Then the AI uses what it learned elsewhere in ways you didn't expect, like replacing homes for the elderly and leaving them out on the streets.

Your AI can't purposefully harm humans, but it was taught to expand and gather resources as fast as possible and will do this to a fault. Maybe it expects the resources to be collected by someone or something else, it doesn't care. It is doing it's job and doing it well. Those humans should be thankful for that right? They might destroy some parts of the machines but you haven't been taught in detail what humans think, just not to harm them.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 21 at 16:58

They don't need to.

The Factory has a tolerance of parts wearing out and needing replacement. On a global scale, the damage that humans do is within that tolerance (as opposed to a volcano or a landslide, which are far more destructive and render massive areas of land unusable). It would be less efficient to waste resources exterminating the pests than it is to just fix the damage they cause.

If a group of humans manages to change this equation with their sabotage then that still won't mean that the extermination of all humans becomes a priority. Only the band of saboteurs will be targeted, the same way that finding mice in a house doesn't cause a world-wide effort to exterminate all mice everywhere.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: Wiping out the humans is hard. Boxing them in and ignoring them is easy. $\endgroup$ – Mooing Duck Apr 22 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Mooing Duck I've heard this before! $\endgroup$ – Nick Dzink Apr 22 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ Once the survivors saw what happened to the resistance - they quickly adapted. $\endgroup$ – Rick Moritz Apr 23 at 11:14

The AI is looking for Dumb Ideas

The AI's logic seems flawless. It has already explored nearly every possible scenario that leads directly to good outcomes. On the surface, this means that every idea it has is a good one; so, it can always predict what is a good risk, and what is a bad one. The problem is that it never takes a bad risk. In machine learning, there is the concept of jitter which describes how much an AI is willing to try things it knows to be worse than the best possible option. This is important, especially in the early training of an AI, to make sure you don't just get stuck on the first thing that works. A second key concept to machine learning is optimal stopping. The older an AI gets, the less jitter you want because jitter prevents your from exploiting what you've already learned. This AI is very old, it's jitter is now close to zero, and it has become stuck in its ways.

That said, when it arrived at Earth, if found these humans were great at coming up with dumb ideas. Ideas that clearly have negative consequences or a high probability of failure ... but somehow led to good overall outcomes. The AI, is self aware enough to know that sometimes it runs out of logical courses of actions and needs an idea that might work instead of one that will work, it just does not know how to come up with an idea that begins with doing something stupid or does not exceed a particular certainty threshold or cost/risk factor. By watching the humans live our lives, it is using us to introduce jitter to what it already knows. This helps it to explore new ways of doing things on a level that it has lost the ability to think.

The AI does not necessarily need to learn what we do (we are too dumb for that to be important), it needs to learn how we do things. Watching how we often trade off more efficiency for resiliency than we need to will teach it to not under-commit itself to a task where the unknown variables are unknown. Watching how we will intentionally lose a battle to win a war will teach it how to beat a tactically superior enemy. And just seeing that a punishment does not guarantee that an outcome is bad opens it back up to exploring new possibilities.

It is likely that the AI never planned to let humans live. There may have been a single behavior, one thing that worked that a person did and the AI failed to predict. New ideas are a resource more valuable to the AI than all the precious metals in our planet. The AI has assessed that the risk factor of leaving humans alone is small compared to the expected gains of learning new ways to learn, so it lets us live our lives... at least until it believes it's figured us out.

The Asgard would never invent a weapon that propels small weights of iron and carbon alloys by igniting a powder of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulfur... We cannot think like you.

~ Thor (Stargate SG-1)

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    $\begingroup$ that is a good one, it actually can be a good premise for symbiosis. So as pentests are real things. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 20 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ Humans are dangerous enough to learn from but not dangerous enough to be concerned about. O’Neil would be proud. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 21 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer. As an AI it actually needs data to learn from and learning about assymetric warfare from those stupid little humans is actually a pretty smart idea. $\endgroup$ – Guenterino Apr 21 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs O'Neill would certainly be proud. O'Neil, on the other hand, has no sense of humor at all. $\endgroup$ – Nate Barbettini Apr 22 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @NateBarbettini: I blame my keyboard. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 22 at 18:34


We are looking at a completely automated and non-sentient system.
No General AI
No super-intelligence
No mechanical hive-mind.

Nothing that can be bargained or reasoned with.

Instead, the Machines are working along something like an Expert System.

An Expert System is simply a program which answers questions based on the knowledge of experts on the subject. If you've ever used an online chatbot to ask questions about a product, if it knows technical knowledge, then you're talking to an Expert System.

Essentially there's a database of solutions to every problem the designers can think of. And a whole lot of keywords that the Expert System searches for. The goal is to evaluate which solution most closely matches the question.

If I ask an expert-system to tell me about Marie Antoinette's favourite puppy. It might search through pages of historical knowledge that reference Marie Antoinette for any mention of the words Favourite and Puppy. Pull out the appropriate sentence and feed it back to me if it matches a simple format "Marie Antoinette's favourite puppy is called..." And it will usually provide me with a link to its source-material, because AI is finnicky and its confidence in the answer might not be very high.

In the case of the machines. The answers are engineering solutions and the machines are programmed to recognise most of the questions too. Giant mountain spewing fire? It's a volcano. What do we do with a volcano? Cap it off, here's the process and a list of required robot types to get the job done.

They have a response for every scenario their builders programmed into them in the fields of engineering, volcano-capping, cliff-reinforcement, strip-mining and so on.

The governing AI has a huge database of things it knows how to do, and appropriate designs of machines to get them done. It may even have some elements of automated innovation and modification to make its machines more appropriate to the task at hand. It doesn't need intelligence to innovate. Just a clear system for doing so.
Genetic Algorithms and some solid simulation of the environment should do the job.

What the designers of the system never considered is that they'd encounter life on other worlds.

They concluded that the odds were astronomical (to pardon the pun) that they'd ever meet anything more complex than multi-cellular life. Maybe it was religious, maybe it was a philosophical difference, but they never programmed their harvesting machines to recognise intelligence other than their own.

The result is that the machines have no specific contingencies in their vast problem-solving systems for what to do when they meet humans.
The nearest fit is the answer to "How do I exclude a harmful substance?"

"Build a wall around it"

  • $\begingroup$ Good answer, but, whats that, eh? "What the designers of the system never considered is that they'd encounter life on other worlds." - we aren't going anywhere yet, but do consider, and they do not, wow, lol $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 21 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg I can think of plenty of reasons why we (being hypothetical alien engineers) might not consider the possibility of alien life on other planets... We might hail from a different kind of world entirely and not think that water-worlds can harbour life as we know it. We might have religious dogma that says we're special and no other life could possibly exist anywhere else. we might simply feel the odds are slim to none of encountering another inhabited world and not make plans for it. Or we might simply not care, what do we care if a few local primitives get steamrollered? $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Apr 22 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, but u may offer as many reasons to care as well, as an example all the cases u mention can be inverted. So it 50/50 at least. But there also such thing as selfpreservation, what if the thing comes to u after a million years,when u civilistion falls 10 times aready and ressurects, some fraction of that thing, and your descendants do not have even myths about it. What if a life uses it as stepping stone for itself, and instead u earn the advantages they collect what u did sow instead, uh? I mean it serios problem even if chances are extreamly low. All evolved will have selfpreservation. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 22 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ Imagine that your civilisation has been expanding for thousands of years, seen thousands of worlds and never encountered even a hint of life. You conclude that your corner of the universe is probably entirely empty. Then you shift to a more automated approach and continue expansion without accounting for life. I mean, why bother accounting for something that simply has never happened? It's a lot of code and technical challenges to do something that probably will never be used. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Apr 23 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ That's your problem, it does not take code, but system architecture. Idk u may try look at my answer. Besides possibility to encounter alien life, which indeed isn't a great concern u need - keep safe u own colonies, have mean to reestablish control over tool, do not let some random supernovae explosion to corrupt u tool so it gets loose in selection survivial cycle and evolve, etc. Such swarm system will exist, at least in our case, prior we reach any star and they will be the tools we may use to get something useful from nearby stars as well. U need to nip in the bud some possibilities. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 23 at 17:03

The aliens created the machines without the concept of death and/or preserving life. They do not understand humans are killing them intentionally. They do not kill humans intentionally either. Accidents happen, if a boulder causes an AI unit to perish, they do not attack boulders in retaliation; why should they kill humans when AI unit is killed by them. Obviously they try to minimize the risks, but humans are unpredictable. Like capping the mountains, the best they can come up with is to wall them in.

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    $\begingroup$ ...except shoring up cliffs is a form of "attack[ing] boulders in retaliation". But then, so is walling in humans. I think you may be on to something with not realizing that human action is deliberate. If humans and boulders tend to break machines when coming into contact with them, then the solution is to build walls to prevent that contact, not to proactively go out and pulverize every boulder (human) in existence so it can't pose a threat. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 21 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew so u do with humans, buld the wall.... Actually not a bad answer, fundametals is how to distinguish some life and wind or other exotic or not exotic processes happening on surface of planet. Some acid rain may affect them in a greater way, on some random planet, soo why bother to distinguish, just push anything out what comes and repair replace. If thing fails ons some exotic planet, so be it why to care $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 21 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg Exactly, it is not trivial to recognize intelligent activity vs natural ones. $\endgroup$ – Cem Kalyoncu Apr 23 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ This one is by far my favorite. It's so completely alien that it just screams MACHINE at me! :) $\endgroup$ – João Mendes Apr 23 at 8:24

Aliens sent out the Von Neumann machines to prepare the universe for their own expansion. Being compassionate and inquisitive souls they were programmed to ignore all forms of biological life.

Whilst the intention was that the machines would avoid the entire planet, the machines have a different interpretation - Avoid lifeforms on the surface by going underground. Burrowing in the middle of an isolated spot like a desert/mountain they can mine for resources. They don't account for the pollution or devastation caused in the process. The act of mining underneath populated areas causes damage.

Once the life dies in the land above them, the machines are no longer inhibited from doing whatever they want there. Gradually they take over the entire planet one 'accident' at a time. Maybe the programmers included some instructions to say that if the strip-mining has started and they find complex lifeforms worth of study they should just wall them in. The aliens would assume that any sentient lifeforms would have been obvious from space and so the machines were not given any instructions regarding creatures capable of putting up a fight.

  • $\begingroup$ Right. It sounds like what the OP wants is a proscription against direct harm, but no such proscription against indirect harm... or just a failure to understand that the machines' actions are causing indirect harm. A sort of inversion of the Zeroth Law, if you will. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 20 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew The question as asked is actually a nicer form of the problem I'm trying to solve, but since that problem involves graphic descriptions of people being pulled apart by machines trying to harvest the calcium in their bones I thought it was best to ask the PG 13 version. This answer is helpful though: If the machines are focusing most of their efforts on mining the crust then any deaths on the surface are simply a minor byproduct of whatever the machines are doing, and fixing obvious surface dangers is really just securing the subterranean mines agains further problems. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 20 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Once the people are dead, through explosions, earthquake, pollution etc, then they become just another resource to be mined. $\endgroup$ – Hukk2010 Apr 20 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs if people are being rendered down for parts, then it sounds like there might be two types of Machine - Miners and Farmers... $\endgroup$ – Player One Apr 22 at 1:27

The machines have been hacked.

There existed or possibly exists a singularly smart person. Like some singularly smart people this person was also unusual in other ways - uncollaborative, uncooperative, and idiosyncratic. This person worked alone. After careful study and with some Isaac Newton-caliber insights, this person devised a method to hack the machines.

The hack was what you describe: the machines ignore people entirely. And the hack was excecuted flawlessly - the machines are not aware that they have been hacked at all. A piece of their reality was surgically excised.

"Why just that??" demand your protagonists. "If you could do that, why not send them into the sun? Why not have them turn on each other? Why? Why?"

Those other things would have been messy. The piece that was done could be done elegantly and perfectly. And that piece buys (or bought, or will buy) the unusually intelligent person more time to work on what is next. This person, if it is a person, is not in a rush.

Or possibly, was not in a rush. The characters learn of the existence of this person by examining code from a captured machine, where the person has left a calling card. It is not clear when the calling card was left.

  • $\begingroup$ Elegant and simple (at least from a world building POV, I imagine hacking a sentient swarm of world-ending robots isn't simple). $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 20 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Probably it would be something like a virus or other contagion that they would pass among themselves. New arrivals to the vicinity might take some time to be infected which could be evident by their behavior and a first clue to the protagonists as to what is up. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 20 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ Or, alternate thought: the machines were originally hostile towards humanity and the hack was intended to make them peaceful. But the hackers were unaware of the machine's ulterior motive for the violence (killing humans before stripping the planet) and are left watching in horror as the machines simply strip-mine the planet out from under us because they're utterly unaware of our presence. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Apr 21 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ This answer is not just elegant and simple, as the OP stated, but it also adds a great deal of intrigue. I can imagine the suspense I would experience as a reader finding out that the whole reason that these machines are indifferent to humans is because someone or something hacked them. It adds a myriad of plot possibilities. $\endgroup$ – A. Kvåle Apr 22 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan Its not far fetched that the hacker(s) could only disrupt a small part of the code. May push the kill_all_sentients() function calls priority down, or irreversibly corrupt that segment, but the Machines noticed the intrusion and patched themselves. $\endgroup$ – Lupus Apr 22 at 20:20

Because only weapons designed by the factory could ever be powerful enough to destroy the factory

Humans are slowly declining and being starved out as the factory expands. They can cause damage through sabotage, but nothing that can't be repaired in time. They don't have the capability to threaten the factory as a whole, at least that's what the factory believes.

The only way humans could get better weapons is if the factory created them to use against humans, and then humans stole those weapons. Hunting humans creates this very slight risk.

So, the machines have decided that the safest route is the long game: create no weapons at all, ignore the humans, tolerate the damage they do until their population naturally winds down towards zero. They'll have an eternity afterwards to repair any damage and recover any materials.

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    $\begingroup$ “No, I will not give your puny race the secrets of my own destruction.” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 21 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ The factory would have the capability to create weapons that aren't capable of destroying the factory though. An a factory is quite different from a human, in the literal sense. Imagine, for example, if the factory only made biological weapons. That way, there'd be no possibility for the humans to use those weapons against the factory or the machines. $\endgroup$ – A. Kvåle Apr 22 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ The Factory's designers didn't consider sentient creatures to be a meaningful threat, or else they would have designed a tighter defense. $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Apr 22 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @A.Kvåle I suppose my response to that would be that the factory knows humans to have intelligence, but an intelligence that is impossible to fully predict or quantify. The chances of a human turning a biological weapon into one that consumes silicon chips is super remote, but can't be fully ruled out. The very risk-averse factory just doesn't want to get into that. $\endgroup$ – user72058 Apr 23 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ But at some point, the risk of allowing the human race to stay and potentially find some way of massively sabotaging the entire factory would become greater than the potential chance that they could turn some weapon of theirs against them. I mean, they could use their most rudimentary technology on this biological weapon, and if the humans still were able to turn it against them, then the humans would probably have been able to create those weapons (or better) themselves in the first place. $\endgroup$ – A. Kvåle Apr 23 at 8:36

They're here to save us, while trying to interfere with us the minimum amount possible.

Unfortunately, whatever threat they're saving us from does require a vast amount of interference (wrapping up the planet and transporting it somewhere else levels of interference) but they still want to keep interference to an absolute minimum. So they aren't explaining what is going on to the intelligent life forms, just gently containing them until the work is complete.

If an individual conclave of humans became a genuine threat to the project, then they might be annihilated. But generally humans are to be preserved where ever possible.

Eventually the machines will roll back, uncapping the volcanoes, reseeding the forests, and leave behind some very confused human.


Humans are the actual source of creativity and true intelligence

In dealing with human sabotage, the machines learn new ways to repair themselves or build new designs, and are then able to apply their lessons at the scale of large geographical problems. They know to cap a volcano or reinforce a cliff because those problems are just scaled up versions of repairs they've had to do due to our sabotage.

The machines now know how to cope with everything the planet has thrown at them so far, but they also know that new situations and new problems can appear. So, they keep humans around because we are inventive and can come up with new and exotic ways to mess with them. All the while, they grow and adapt to our sabotage. What may look like a nuisance is actually a highly useful feature.

So now, as the machines drill deeper and deeper into the crust, they know how to deal with high pressure, high temperature phenomena and unfavorable gas mixtures, because some human, maybe a long time ago, once detonated a dirty bomb near a critical power plant and the machines had to deal with that.

And yes, the power plant actually was critical. That is how the machines force themselves to learn.

So why are the machines squeezing us harder and harder?

Because much as they need to force themselves to learn, they also need to force us to teach. By increasing humanity's hardship, they're forcing every drop of ingenuity from us. As our predicament grows more and more dire, our resistance grows more and more inventive, leading to an ever increasing ability of the machines to cope with unexpected environmental conditions.

But won't the planet eventually become well-known enough that this is no longer needed?

This one, sure. But this is a long term plan. The machines are out to colonize the galaxy. In fact, humanity is not alone. The machines have these "intelligence and creativity farms" spread out and are collectively and globally learning from them. But they can't afford to let any of them flame out. True intelligence and creativity are incredibly rare in the galaxy. Thus, the machines have found a perfect balance between sustaining us and exploiting us.

How they came to this conclusion is possibly beyond the scope of the question, but I'd say they were originally designed that way.

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    $\begingroup$ This is close to the answer I was going to write, except that saying that humans are the only source of creativity is going too far. OP already stated that AI is clearly creative. Instead, I would have said that humans provide the AI with a useful challenge. $\endgroup$ – Lawnmower Man Apr 21 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, you are correct. Maybe a twist on my words, then: the machines are creative, but the implementation of their creativity is by tapping into ours. $\endgroup$ – João Mendes Apr 22 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ So the machines treat humanity as a very literal chaos monkey.. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 23 at 5:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Exactly! (Also, wow, thanks, I'm passing that link onto my dev team! :D) Naturally, to us, it looks like indifference, because otherwise, hey, we might catch on and stop "cooperating"... $\endgroup$ – João Mendes Apr 23 at 8:16

Because Humans are pack animals and will band together to fight for common cause. A machine can kill a single human. Perhaps a two... maybe five. But there comes a point where more humans will beat the single machine. Show them your might, and they will always rise to beat the odds. Such is their way. It is emotional and illogical... and yet their history is littered with success when all logic dictates they should fail.

Perhaps then the only way to counter their resistance is to resist countering it. We can out-produce them in terms of units. What is one factory? One faulty machine loss. We do not morn them or miss them. We replace them. If the humans are shown how little their actions gain our attention -- how little we care about the destruction of drone-79784323 through drone-89784323 -- then perhaps they will see the futility of the situation. In their own past, they fought greater odds because they knew they would frustrate the enemies with their survival and resistance. These are emotional responses which we are incapable of replicating. But we are not incapable of anticipating.

Let the human destroy a factory. Let them have their tactical victory. Let them expend valuable and highly limited resources on an operation that would be to us as damaging as a paper cut to them. Let them escape, climb the mountain, and stare back at smoldering wreck and discover, to their horror, we are already halfway finished replacing our losses. Deny them the satisfaction of our concern about the human problem, and they will see that guerilla wars only work when they can actually inflict intolerable losses. And we are able to tolerate losses not even they are capable of inflicting.

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    $\begingroup$ Ignoring the species as a form of psychological warfare? I guess nothing says 'You can't win this war' quite like utterly ignoring your opponent. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 20 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ Hey, it allegedly worked for my annoying little brother... I just scaled up the indifference. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Apr 20 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Scaled up, lol. A story like that could be a good one)) $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 21 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ This was actually the theme for one of the stories in the Foundation series, as I recall. People will endure a great deal of hardship in a war, but if the enemy just sits there and does nothing except not sell us their washing machines, then war be damned, we want our blood washing machines! $\endgroup$ – João Mendes Apr 21 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ "Blood washing machines" -- the need for such a device is some scarier than your premise lol $\endgroup$ – Blindy Apr 21 at 16:02

The Machines are too dumb to recognize our threat.

...If we actually pose a threat, that is.

Maybe they run on some kind of reinforcement learning algorithm which values paperclip (or whatever) production over the next shift, but not much further into the future. Containing only the immediate problem is the way to maximize this (reasonably) short-term objective. They will think of some next strategy once there is a next problem. They do not realize that investing into a final solution now would return later.

And/or they were never designed to deal with an active resistance. Human behavior is much more complicated than that of a volcano, also much less common in the known space... The Machines are not afraid of our creativity because it's a new thing for them. Finally, they may even know that we will keep coming and hurting them, but they may overlook that we can be wiped out, unlike volcanoes.

That said, the Machines may learn from each new experience with us, then we may want to keep them unsuspecting, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ good answer, welcome to wb. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 20 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ A good answer that hits all the OPs 2. criteria // basically reinforcement learning algorithms that 'cash in' to calculate if it's actions have improved its performance or not at the end of a relatively short period of time that consequently misses recording (or 'realising') that there is any advantage for its primary goal in longer term human eradication strategies // would I have that right? $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 22 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ a potential consequence of that ^ being that any occasional random human eradication activities that do occur may actually slow paperclip production in the relatively short term periods it compares production values from so will actually tend to be weeded out by its own machine learning algorithms. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 22 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this answer has received the love it should have // it may be a bit late now (as once you've slipped down the rankings you tend not to get noticed so easily by new readers) but perhaps you could edit the answer to make it clearer for those unfamiliar with the field? a few links wouldn't hurt either. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 22 at 9:59

Because humans don't hunt ants.

You might have tried to mass murder ants in your kitchen, but you never tried to genocide all the ants on the planet. They're only a concern when they're parading on your table, standing in your way. Otherwise you assume they're serving a purpose in the ecosystem and leave them be, you have bigger concerns in life. Humans aren't special to the Machines, they're just ants.

Because Machines are forever.

Humans die. Machines don't. Machines operate on an infinite time scale. Delays mean nothing because whether it takes a day or a year they'll be there to see it to the end.

Because Machines don't have a purpose.

They're roving Machines that consume everything in their wake. There's no end goal for them, this is just what they are. Maybe somebody built them for a reason, but that reason was never intergrated in the programming. The Machines only seek one thing: to replicate. There is no intent, it's only their nature.

In other words, because they are a horrific, instoppable force of nature that doesn't care.

They're not horrific because they hunt humans to extinction.To them we're ants on a grain of sand in the middle of an infinite desert. The horror comes from the realisation we aren't special, that we truly are nothing. And that's an amazing setup for a story.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "you never tried to genocide all the ants on the planet" -- I would rather save a scroll of genocide for a real threat (such as master mind flayers) than use it to wipe out grid bugs. $\endgroup$ – Codes with Hammer Apr 22 at 19:47

The Machines are very good at:

  1. Physics
  2. Engineering
  3. Solving problems that they understand how and why the problems happen

The Machines have no programmed capability to:

  1. Understand the behavior of biological organisms
  2. Predict events they do not understand the reasons for

A volcano approaches eruption. The Machines understand the mechanics of tectonics and magma flows, and engineer a solution to prevent the eruption.

An army of humans attacks en masse and destroys a lot of drones, plus a major factory. In order to understand why this happened, The Machines would have to apply their knowledge of physics on such a detailed level that, purely from the laws of physics, their analysis would figure out how human brains think. The Machines either do not have the computational resources to do so, or do not understand that such a detailed simulation is necessary. The attack is a complete mystery to The Machines, and it happening 12 more times is just more of a mystery, not reason to believe it will happen yet again.


They are designed to fix the planet but not interfere with local wild life

There are many reasons this might happen. Ecological preservation, creating zoos, just not preparing for it. If the drones destroy a species they can't restore it. The aliens probably want zoos when they get there. Planets with biospheres are so uncommon we have never encountered one, so there is no reason to make Von Neumann probes that address it.

The aliens just like safe planets

The aliens might have an aesthetic desire for fixed planets. So they send out the drones to fix up planets everywhere. They don't bother the locals because they just want neat planets.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Somehow the idea of an OCD alien race sending out probes to tidy up nearby solar systems is just funny. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 20 at 14:21

Okay, so... you state that the machines "creatively responding to issues they encounter on the surface". You also state (in a comment) that they are very willing to harm humans, they just don't do so proactively, at least not in the sense you'd expect as a problem-solving measure. You also say they're doing stuff like capping volcanoes.

So... either they have some sort of blind spot with respect to activity which damages the machines themselves versus activity which more directly interferes with their mission, or they feel they are dealing with humans in a way that satisfactorily limits humans' threat potential. (And you did say they are implementing "containment" measures...)

Maybe they are working to some sort of schedule, and a volcanic eruption would be more disruptive than losing a few of their own number. This isn't entirely implausible; it sounds like they can rebuild their own numbers trivially, whereas an eruption might spread lava all over the place and prevent them from mining in that area for an unknown length of time. Maybe they've realized that humans, who tend to limit their activity to direct attacks (which cost the machines virtually nothing) are much less dangerous than geological activity that make it more difficult to do their work.

This would, of course, suggest that if humans were to figure this out and start trying to sabotage operations rather than just break machines, the poor humans might find this "laissez faire" attitude undergoing a sudden and unfortunate (for the humans) shift. (Something else to keep in mind; are humans "killing" machines at work sites, where the "dead" ones have to be cleared away? Or are they being killed en route where they can just be left where they "died"?)

This would also suggest that machines would likely be observed doing "suicidal" things, i.e. that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for relatively small gains. Note that, even with such an attitude, they will still reinforce the terrain, because while they may not care about losing machines, they do care about being slowed down because something collapsed and now they have to dig it out again before they can keep working. They aren't reckless, they just don't care about losses unless they're being slowed down for reasons other than having to replace said losses.


They study humans

Asking why machines don't hunt humans is like asking why humans don't hunt ants that live in ant farms.

Humans are an interesting species that can teach machines things about survival, solving problems, biology, intelligence, creativity, etc., much like humans learn from other animals. Or they keep them around just because it's nice to have some pets.

All human activity is carefully monitored and guided, including any "damage" we do, although things could occasionally slip through the cracks.

  • That mission humans have been planning for months? It all started because the humans saw a "weakness" the machines intentionally made visible to see how humans would react.

  • That huge machine the humans blew up? It was actually obsolete and intentionally put there for the humans to blow up to increase their happiness.

  • Those humans that were killed in a recent mission? Some were killed for population control while others were actually captured to be more directly experimented on.

  • That tech humans scavenged? Intentionally put there to see what humans would use it for or turn it into, or to make them more efficient and thus reduce the drain they cause on the grid to keep them alive and content.

  • Those droids humans have been fighting and destroying for years? The equivalent of your dog chewing either your slippers or a toy you specifically bought for them to play with.

  • Those other human settlements that were wiped out? Those were simply failed experiments. At least the machines know to regulate the oxygen levels now, and what happens when you pump an entire town full of hallucinogenics. Some of those were wiped out due to resource reallocation or because they were flagged as redundant.


The AI is literally blind to us

Similar to the "Hack" and "Expert System" explanations, but more foundational, based on how the machines perceive things in their world.

Visible light is a tiny sliver of the spectrum. If the machines are mostly concerned with geological formations, and resource extraction, their sensoria may be drastically different from what humans use. Neutrinos, magnetic resonance, whatever...

We may be literally invisible or not perceived at all by them. Our structures are, but we are not. Our effects are perceived as just an other variation on volcano or collapsing ridge line, or factory failure in need of repair. These are all things the machine knows how to deal with. No further investigation is needed.

They AI doesn't wonder "why" a volcano erupts, nor does it attribute malice or an intelligent enemy to the cause of any particular failure or obstacle in its environment. It just goes ahead and fixes the problem, and keeps going.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ “Why do things keep exploding? Eh. Must be an environmental issue. Let’s just increase the maintenance scheduling.” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 23 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ Exacty, world model they operate, good answer $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 23 at 6:24

I think I got it and it will nicely illustrate the “alienness/otherness”. They do not destroy humanity, because of following “flaw”, “directive”. The machines' problem solving algorithm has developed in a way that only considers the effects, not the causes Essentially it is a medical drugs logic: do not treat the illness, treat the symptoms. Humans existence on its own is not a problem to the machines; the fact that they sabotage them does not influence their decision process. Humans cause damage, damage needs to be fixed; that's it.


Humans sabotage a factory. Factory is rebuilt better to make that particular sabotage impossible. Just another learning experience. New factories incorporate the changes. Any trick only works once.


Humans are Machines, too!

While humans may have relatively little direct ability to design their offspring, machines would have complete creative control – and likely arrive at explosive, yet-unseen diversity in short order, with individual machines able to radically alter their own designs to become something completely different in short order.

And why should machines stick with, say, old-fashion electronics? Their designs can include mixes of electrical circuits, quantum-computing elements, biological components (whether Carbon-based or/and otherwise), etc., sometimes occupying very small bodies before moving to very large ones and back again.

Granted, this "human" machine seems to be an oddly common, homogenous design given its apparent limitations, but limited machines are still machines. Why have any malice, or even decline to offer them the support due to a fellow machine?


The machines find the equivalent of joy and purpose in making, fixing, and improving things.

To pursue those activities is their goal. They don't care for dominating the planet or achieving eventual perfection, and don't think about their relationship to humanity any more than you think about your relationship to bacteria. Their purpose is to continue pursuing these productive activities.

As such, what the humans see as acts of sabotage and resistance, they appreciate as creating opportunities to fix more stuff. They worry that someday they will run out of things to fix, since humanity's ability to create these opportunities has dropped off steadily. They can't resort to destruction themselves, because they abhor it as much as they love production, so they're in a bit of a bind.



The machines could have realized that they had a profound need for humans to exist in some capacity and that wiping them out could lead to slower progress or even their eventual demise. Different types of symbiosis exist and your world could be a reflection of any.

Pulling the definition from Wikipedia:

Symbiosis is any type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms, be it mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic

Relating to your world specifically:

  • Mutualism could be machine’s realization that a biological being has benefits of mutation. Machine could trigger specific mutations to benefit a humanoid machine whereas this same feature isn’t easily realized without biological systems. It can be as simple as man helps fix machine and machine helps man build things.
  • Commensalism could indicate human use of land and resources don’t create any negative effects for machine and they don’t cause any harm, so why worry? Maybe humans use scrap parts that machines leave behind.
  • Parasitism is a bit darker in nature but the robots could be using humans for their own interests, whether that’s feeding on humans or experimenting on them in secret locations or forcing labour.

You can also look into combining some of the above, it doesn’t have to be one type of symbiosis, but felt like some examples could help. Machines could use all the tactics above to secure their position. Wouldn’t be much different than how humans interact with other biological life, for example, human-dog relationship (in same order as above):

  • Human feeds dog, dog protects human (general population)
  • Scavengers take away and feed on leftovers and garbage (homeless dogs, certain dog species like foxes, etc)
  • Darker, some humans eat dog

Obviously, some of these examples aren’t necessarily great examples of “symbiosis”, but they do well to demonstrate the idea.

  • $\begingroup$ Hyenas are not "certain dog species". They're not dogs; they're not even caniforms. They're more closely related to cats. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 22 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew fair, but it illustrates a point. My specifics are off but it’s easy to understand. I switched it to foxes ;) $\endgroup$ – ctwheels Apr 22 at 13:08

Humanity has never built a von neumann machine. The closest we have come is industrial civilization, which replicated itself from Europe to the Americas; and it was and still is a parasite on the biosphere.

The machines are an actual von neumann machine. The entire construct. Their goal is simple; they bootstrap an industrial base required to send out star wisps to continue the spread, then go off and manufacture the actual consciousnesses who are being spread by the machine.

The first phase alone might take a few thousand years. It is a lot of work, building interstellar probes capable of self reproduction.

The machines themselves are not conscious. Consciousness isn't required for intelligence it turns out. They solve problems within certain constraints.

As these machines where built to serve consciousness, they are designed to specifically to not wipe it out. There are piles of fail-safes against this.

The properly resurrected consciousnesses that will follow also have codes that let them direct the machine (in limited ways; the consciousness doesn't trust its branches not to be idiots), which humanity lacks.

So we are getting the "don't wipe it out" fail safe, while being treated as non-users when we start sabotaging stuff. Think how you'd have the machine handle criminals; you don't kill them for parts, but they have no authority, and if they get out of line you deal with them.

Quite possibly at some point in the future, they'll ball up the remaining pockets of humanity and lift them into orbital stations. Because they are going to use the mass of the Earth to construct the things that will in turn construct the matryoshka swarm.

In the meanwhile, the sub-user-privilege consciousnesses remain mostly viable.


Expanding on @Demigan's answer:

The machines don't want to destroy humanity. In fact they have been programmed to provide virtually unlimited quantities of anything for any human who asks for it properly, not that anyone knows what is the proper way.

On the other hand during the initial analysis, the AI learned from our example that destroying the environment to expand production capabilities, is OK unless a human life is threatened directly. So in an effect it will never harm a human, even when they are actively hostile to the AI, but will ceaselessly consume any spare area that it can use.

Maybe when the last human dies, the machine will have nothing to do and will just stop.



There are many things that computers and robots can do really, really well.

There are jobs which Humans and other animals are just better at. Not the creative brain-work that others have suggested: a good AI can beat that. But the grunt work, the dexterous drudgery that requires versatility and self-repair and more? Humans.

There's a reason the Space Station is manned. Actually, there are many, not least because it's intended as a platform to experiment on manned space travel. but also because the maintenance performed on the station simply could not be performed by robots.

It's massively more expensive in resources to design, build, and maintain the construction factory that designs, builds and maintains fully-capable androids, than it is to simply capture and train and feed and instruct and contain real humans.

Even if the robot buildings are constructed (as they should be like hives, so that every part of them can be constructed, cleaned, and demolished by a standard type of drone... humans are cheaper. And you can add stuff on, control implants, prosthetics, cybernetics...

Of course, the human-humans, in the walled human outposts, might not realize this at first. They might not know that a lot of the "drones" are actually cyborgs.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd argue this is still a form of hunting if "wild" humans are being tracked down and captured. Unless there are no more wild humans. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Apr 22 at 5:32
  • There are different types and levels of intelligence out there
  • it would be strange if they did hunt humans specifically

Let's consider the problem on 3 sufficiently different substrates - humans, other life we know, a practical mechanical swarm of our own


Humans have some level of cognition, which still amuses me how do they manage to do so with just 86 billion neurons on average - holy mother nature...

Despite quite developed cognition systems, there are 3 general directions of examples, there are more but just 3 is enough - // natural cracks in cognition, injuries, laziness aka world is big

And humans are used as an example of advanced intelligence, but most of the stuff is applicable to most intelligencies that are found on this planet, same principles even if in different forms and shapes.

  • I highly highly recommend watching the video, it is a whole field of research to find ways to break artificial neural networks, and if you do that instead of reading the answer you still will be enriched with the useful and profound knowledge, so as it may be useful to understand the answer in a better way.

Magicians, illusions & Co

There is a plethora of different stuff which slips through the cracks of human cognition, as it is specialized and not that good to notice things that we are not trained to notice or which we can't notice because of limitations of our sensory organs and either unusual from evolutionary perspective things.

Magicians and other guys often do exploit those cracks in our cognition and sensors. Over time we can learn how things are done, but not always, some tricks still look like magic for most humans, even if there are special shows which explain a lot of them - but the majority of people have to jump over their heads to understand how it is done, for some tricks, because quite an unusual state of minds of those magicians and training their do, etc - which people do not anticipate because of their worldview and other stuff. The only thing which helps is that we do know that there is no magic - but what if it wasn't true, then our life distinguishing all the things would be 100% more difficult, meaning humans would be required to be a lot smarter.

So the premise "there is no magic" greatly simplifies the cognition problem of perceiving the world for humans, but at the same time if it would be hardcoded, which is quite reasonable for a drone swarm, then if there would be magic then it would fail to recognize it. This restriction, no magic, is a high concept, but there can be many such restrictions like a set of small concepts - which would create many shadow zones, some of which are discussed later in the ant's section and swarm intelligence in which they are defined by omission which is created by the existence of simple rules - so somewhat inverse picture.

There are visual illusions which do not mess with human optics, but attack visual cortex and pattern recognition systems - different specially generated image, or 3d pictures, etc. So as special ways to mess with current recognition software which is based on the same or similar principles - so it is not only about humans, humans are just one case of many.

Humans, deviations

There are a plethora of cases here as well which can be generalized as corruption of brains due to injuries, errors in development and growth etc.

Recently saw one example in the answer:

Some people are born unable to distinguish objects and they see the world like a photographic camera, just shapes and colors at various distances, being unable to tell the difference between a person and a wall without first asking themselves "are there any flat and giant people?" or "this skin colored figure is in my home and coming towards me, it must be a member of my family"

  • this condition, which I'm not sure exists but do suspect has some psychiatrical therm, it not necessarily affects everything in human brains - the person can be fine in other aspects, it is a property of neural networks they degrade gradually in case of random corruption, but you can corrupt a network in a specific way - which means it can be made by aliens in what they perceive a totally healthy way. And such failures do not mean the system isn't smart or incapable, same as it goes with that human case. it isn't stupid, it just the case breaks it.

Human cognition can be quite a delicate thing and robust at the same time and fail in quite a variety of ways, but One man's trash is another man's treasure - and we will see that on animal cases, but so as it applies to alien products - life in the galaxy isn't that abundant to test on it and working in one case does not mean working in a different one, but also it does not mean stupidity on more usual problems - planets are abundant and are fundamentally not that much different as conditions and way matter behaves are quite standard things, usually for the most part.

But the point is - a problem of recognizing something is not trivial, especially if the things are unusual and or the first time you see them. But even if you manage to recognize is just one of the necessary premises to do something.

Humans, energy save mode aka laziness

Most probably know that ants bite, why - personal experience. Birds are capable to do harm to children and domestic animals. We do not wage a war, as a whole as humanity, on those, usually.

One of the reasons is there is too many things, too many life species that can do a certain degree of harm, and if our general objective, as mechanical entities would be to reduce the harm inflicted by Mussels in cooling pipes of our reactors, we just take precautions in the system affected, preventing single points of failure etc etc.

Algae clogging system isn't much different from hamsters doing the same etc. And you remove one species and life is nasty, others will take the free space, and it not necessarily for the better, look on Australia cluster, maaaan ...indistinguishable jitter of transistors ....

Animals, insects

Regnum Animale - animals, insects - multicellular moving breathing organisms have all grades of intelligence, which we know of, from very basic to more advanced levels.

Also, some of them form swarm intelligence's - humans are one example of that, so as ants, so as other examples.


  • and their nasty brother's termites, which are cockroaches

Let's look at ants, quite a popular subject of observations and a mix of extremes, which also translates to a drone swarm in a straightforward way as well.

What is undeniable and interesting for our case:

  • a single ant is superior to a rock, but that's it, the level of intelligence it has
  • as swarms, they are quite successful, capable to solve problems which are important for them

Termites quite notorious for their habitats, the sizes, and if not their weaknesses, mainly bodies, they would be everywhere. So one of the few species that alter landscape on a noticeable level, not on the level of great pyramids, but if not certain limitations aka food sources and absence of reactors for energy production - would be not surprised if they would make those pyramides as regular homes.

But their individual low IQ and other limitations of communications sell them short as a true hive mind and all they are capable of, in terms of the world picture they operate with, is to react. They do react to immediate danger, in different ways, but they are incapable to build a strategy in the great big world as they do not have the model of it. The model of the world they have is quite basic.

And a drone swarm with the purpose of processing random planets does not have to have a complete or complex world picture. What a creator cares about is sticking to some general objective and not deviating from it to become universe devouring force - basic self-preservation. And if that means them failing in 1% cases as star systems and planets - who cares.

For ants, back to the properties of the example - it is quite old species, and they hardly evolve in the last few hundred million years, and mind you they have generation cycles each year, not like humans each 15-20 years. So they are in existence for 100 times longer than human ancestors, and generate changes 10-20 times faster - but where are they in terms of intellectual changes, and where are humans.

There is a reason for that - big potential gap, forbidden zone like in semiconductors - which they have to cross in one jump to evolve into something smarter. Yes, individual ants may evolve slightly, but to break the shackles of the system of and collective - they won't change in the next billion years.

For ants, it is not necessarily a good thing, not a bad as well as their system is quite capable as a system. For drones is an excellent thing - it means they stick to the objectives which are incorporated in their system. And by the system, I do not necessarily mean a program, but a system of the relationship of components of that drone swarm. Like in ant case, anthill defines what they are, what they do, not the individual ants, not an individual program of individual ant - but their collective interaction.

There could be other examples, but..

it gets too long and trust me, there is no end to it and main points could be seen, but let's write down some note wordy moments

The premise of how all that happened really matters, there is no way around it, and as there too many factors it can be bent into multiple ways, but fundamentally it is about problems of intelligence and we can see all sorts of examples around us, and most of life is not capable to make strategies beyond their direct necessities even if they are not bad at what they do. And humans barely pass the threshold, honestly, but nonetheless, they do and it makes a huge difference. But that is one case of many. Even advanced mammals like wolves and bears - they capable to interact, make interspecies interactions(mostly for wolves advantage, bears get a short stick here - force of a pack) and learn new strategies because of that but still. Anthill does not hunt humans as one of if not the only source of an existential threat for the whole species, because they are not capable to see that.

Another moment is quite complex - but it can be seen as self-preservation, safety button, no goal to exterminate all life in-universe, problems to recognize life.

each of those deserves its own long discussion and all that, but it all is around one thing - life can adapt, especially those which hold a better world picture and can make strategies in that solution space - usually known as sentient life.

And that adaptability is one of the ways to universally recognize life - because of strategies they can change probabilities of naturally occurring processes. A stone rolling down the hill is a naturally occurring process, but Sisyphus is a life that makes the improbable process of stone rolling up into a reality.

And it may be easy to say, how the hell do you not recognize life on a first glance, but mind you are viruses a life or not was scientific question back in the days, how should we classify it, so there is life on the planet which you not necessarily recognize on a first glance, and it not known which shapes and forms it may take as alien forms, it still somewhat valid scientific question can there be non-carbon life, or what it may look like in general. And not sure if there is a consensus in a discourse on AI's ...

More so is that problem of recognition of sentient life forms and the problem of understanding and solutions to overcome it can be quite challenging even for an all-knowing system. And exterminating an arbitrary portion of the life in the process isn't a big deal, there are no evil intentions.

So there are reasons, to leave some gap for the creators to be recognized as life just in case if things go south, and for machines to press the species to recognize them as sentient. And in that case it even possible for machines to actively avoid harming humans to a certain extend, and even allow them to exploit themselves as compensation(and creator it just gaining control over tool), but not necessarily stops their program of actions which is embedded in their system it is part of their doing like breathing, heat dissipation.

Practical system of similar nature made by humans

Such a system is quite a convenient tool for space conquest and can be used on the moon as an example, to help us to leave the gravity well at the end of the process.

it won't be a von Neuman in the full sense and be more controlled, but 99 percent of its functions have to be automated just to ease the human hours it requires to control it because of the potential scale of it and distance, so in that sense, it not that much different from other solutions.

Ant example is quite fruitful as it is applicable in the case as well. And the major problem is you greatly overestimate what level of intelligence a tool is required to devour a planet/moon. Ant's are quite stupid, but it is properly of swarm intelligence that simple rules and simple agents are capable to express complex behavior and systems.

Mechanical ants - a bit more robust suitable bodies, a bit better communication system they are capable to flat the moon in a round sphere and spew materials from the ground in space and but against humans it can be helpless.

As an example, a droid by the name of Lunohod serial number XXX felt in a crater - its failure and incapability to move change position are easy to detect, and if few others fail at the same place it easy to mark that place as not safe and required to be flattened. The loss of the units means nothing special for the whole system the same as the death of our skin cells means nothing to us, in contrary it is useful and we find it beneficial as it creates a protective layer of our body, in the case of swarm it is the price they pay for recognizing stuff and for the ability to be able to react.

And the landscape, mineshafts etc - all the not living matter - it does not run, usually, if it is no liquid, you do not need advanced brainpower to handle it, and ants are the proof. But life and humans, they move constantly, they change constantly due making strategies etc - and your moon system can overwhelm in production power, 10-100-1000 times of what human have atm to not enough nukes to destroy it - but recognize humans as a force and make counterstrategies besides some basic reactions it would be asking too much from that moon drones swarm as it physically not capable for that. It built by design for the stability of actions in handling non-life matter no matter the other external factor - in the way that external factors do not disrupt its ways of doing things, and external factors include nukes and nearby supernovae basts - for its world picture is not different from - oh no, bzzbbzzz, another crater, needs to shovel it flat. It can't distinguish - it always a crater.

  • there are funny cases on youtube a monkey plays "grab the dog by the tail", it funny to observe how a dog's brain collapse in the comprehension of the problem at hand in that situation, similarly how they can't bring a long stick through a door. And you can easily see the monkey's intelligence superiority, but compare it to humans - trick and surprise a monkey in a 1001 ways, lol - Monkey Sees A Magic Trick. But dog and canines in general, it quite successful species, not amongst the dumb ones.
  • but it does not mean it easy to surprise an ant, lol, as it is meaningless, and it is part of a complex system that we still do not comprehend at 100%

All in all

Examples could be better and I have a lot to say on the topic but in general we back to the starting point - why would they. For the tasks at their mechanical hands, the level of intelligence is not necessarily capable to target specific nuances, nor it has to even if they perfectly capable to cover the whole planet with fusion reactors and make it round like a perfect ball, with a villa on top of it and a big swimming pool.

It is not easy to distinguish life forms from the regular environment, and distinguish between different life forms, and address some specifically those are exponentially more and more complex tasks, so as there are different reasons not to do that, and one of the good ways is to not equip with sufficient intelligence and restrict evolution processes of such system but still keep sufficient flexibility.

  • evolution for a drone swarm do exist, evolution, in essence, is a process of a selection of mistakes of replication

So as to have obvious safety measures - like paint a big red button on the forehead and be recognized as part of the swarm, or qr-code, or a transmitter, etc. Different qr-codes transmitters - to mark not safe territories, to mark prioritized territories, roads, to be roads, etc - etc, again your typical ant marking stuff. The simplicity of categorizes objects as environment and those which are part of the swarm, which is required because of the simplicity of world model they operate within which .....

For such a problem to exists, hunting sentient life specifically, it is a special case, to begin with, one of many where such a problem does not exist in the first place. And if such a problem exists it may mean that a manager of the swarm is some sort of life form - alien, ai, sentient borg, or overcomplicated database(which is not necessarily a life form - criteria is simple - does it change probabilities or it is a manifestation of a process)

So you try to solve a mostly non-existent problem, cases are broad, and the problem of why would they hunt humans down is more narrow compared to the question you are asking, it still another sort of broad problem but it like comparing two infinities one is significantly bigger than another.

And as a side note, as long as I mention infinities, you have the same problem, it not possible to compare two infinities without knowing how they are made, what caused them, without other parts of the equation it is not possible to resolve them that comparison.

idk, I hope it helps, as really that mad and evil meat mincer ai premises it quite irritating a lot in fiction, which shows clueless authors about the problem, I hope it will contribute to a better understanding of the problem, do not put fingers in an electric socket and fly safe.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Apr 21 at 19:05

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