Imagining the world in grey goo
This is how artist Shane Hope imagines the Earth as remade by grey goo in his transhumanism-themed exhibition “Your Mom Is Open Source“. Grey goo, runaway self-replicating machines remaking its environment into colorless formless sludge, has become a staple of modern science fiction. It makes an appearance, for instance, in Alastair Reynolds’ Demarchist/Conjoiner books, which are some of my favorite SF-stories.
The term grey goo was invented by Dr. K. Eric Drexler, a pioneer in nanotechnology, in his book “Engines of Destruction” from 1986. In 2004 he published a paper that slew the myth of nanotechnological manufacturing accidentally resulting in grey goo-scenarios. A far more pressing concern would be deliberate abuse, such as, “the possibility that a large-scale and convenient manufacturing capacity could be used to make powerful non-replicating weapons in unprecedented quantity, leading to an arms race or war”.