If you’re familiar with the Star Trek replicator, you’d know about molecular assemblers. It essentially transports any clump of matter from place to place by reconstituting it to the exact molecular schematics and conditions it was in when it was sampled. Some people are serious that this device would work in a similar way in which genes and ribosomes function to produce protein. They’re known as biovorous self-replicating nanorobots. The people developing this technology have studied subjects like nanochemical engineering, diamond surfaces and diamond mechanosynthesis, and kinematic self-replicating technology. Needless to say, this would have enormous industrial capability, speeding up the process of trade, and demanded services, like food. But the replicator, at least the Star Trek version, is also capable of destroying matter. If this is a possibility, like some are suggesting, then we can learn quite a bit from Star Trek. For example, the numerous Voyager episodes where the Kazon and other races tried repeatedly to obtain this technology and use it for malicious purposes. The Kantian Prime Directive therefore demanded that Janeway not give this technology over, no matter what the price.

Speaking of price, there was also an episode of Voyager where the ship energy levels made the number of meals scarce, and therefore “replicator rations” became a kind of currency for those on board. The skeptical people at Foresight.org wrote an article explaining that there is a limit to the kind of dispersal velocity that this kind of replicator would have. At this point, it seems highly speculative, but nonetheless possible. And intelligent physicists are anticipating it.