Throughout history people have combined their labor with increasingly advanced tools. This made work easier, provided a higher quality of life and improved safety and health. The last two centuries have seen a gradual replacement of Manual Labor with powered equipment. More recently, technologies like automation, robotics, software, and artificial intelligence have enabled "Smart Tools". These can replace much of the remaining labor. Along with these advances, our civilization faces a number of current and future problems. These include uneven development, a deteriorating environment, precarious economic situations. and "techno-unemployment" caused by smart tools.

 Despite these problems, most people would like a better life for themselves, their community, and the world. The two volumes in this set are an attempt to (1) describe how we got to where we are and what the problems are, (2) how we can engineer solutions, and (3) some examples on using them to make life better. Our main approach is based on systems designed for self-improvement. We look at such systems, and their surrounding environment, over their full life cycle in order to avoid unwanted side-effects and causing new problems. We think combining self-improvement and the systems approach can address the large-scale problems facing civilization, and allow us to reach our goals.

 To make a difference, any solutions must be practical and achievable. We intend to use the following core ideas to show that solutions can be both:

  • Resources and energy are abundant on Earth and in space.
  • With enough knowledge and tools they can be used to build a better life.
  • With planning this can be sustainable with minimal side effects.
  • Cooperation makes it affordable.
  • Exponential self-improvement makes it scalable.
  • Smart tools can do most of the work and make it easier.

Volume I: Seed Factories and Self-Improving Systems

 This volume is mainly about improving life on Earth. Chapter 1 starts by introducing some of the problems, and the systems engineering approach we will use to devise solutions. Chapter 2 reviews the history of self-improvement in its various aspects like expansion, growth, and upgrades. For most of history the changes were unconscious, and more recently conscious but unplanned. At some point in our history we began planning projects, but did not give much thought to side effects and the problems they cause. Today, the side effects of our growing civilization are becoming urgent problems. So we must not only address unwanted effects in the future, but also try to undo some of the damage already caused.

 Civilization is large and complex, so our solutions have to address both scale and complexity if they are to make a meaningful difference. At the same time we don't want to cause new problems and side effects.

 For scaling we introduce the idea of a "seed factory". This is a production system designed to make more equipment for itself by a repeating process. Current equipment is used to make parts for new equipment. The current + new equipment then makes parts for the next new item in the series. Like any factory it also makes useful end products. One product for an expanded factory is more seed factories, giving it the potential to grow exponentially. This can enable large-scale solutions.

 "Systems engineering" is a method developed in the 20th century to handle complex projects over their entire life cycle. Both self-expanding factories and the parts of civilization it interacts with are complex, so using this method makes sense. It considers the whole system, including all the inputs from and outputs to the outside world. If done correctly, this identifies potential problems like resource depletion, waste products, and end-of-life disposal. Such problems can then be dealt with ahead of time, during design. We think combining the idea of seed factories with systems engineering can lead to a better life for ourselves and the wider community.

 Chapter 2 covers the development of the seed factory idea, its current status, and what additional work on it is needed. Chapter 3 covers elements and ideas to include, the reasons for building such systems, and a reference architecture to structure their planning. Chapter 4 covers the systems engineering and design process in some detail, from specifying needs and wants through construction and operation. [NOTE: move sections on science & engineering design from vol 2 since those apply to both volumes] Every production system involves locations, equipment, inputs, and processes. So we inventory what kinds are available, and speculate on new ones that might be useful in the future.

 Chapters 5 through 8 present a series of examples of our combined approach. They are in order of increasing scale and difficulty. They are linked because an expanded factory grown from a seed can do more than make equipment for its own improvement. When it is mature enough it can also (1) make equipment for additional seed factories to grow by making copies, and (2) make different and/or larger equipment for larger and more difficult projects. It can therefore evolve itself into one of the later examples, or make a different starter set to start fresh one of the later examples.

 A set of tools and machines by themselves are incapable of doing anything. A complete production system also requires material resources to feed the machines, energy to run them, and knowledge in the form of people with suitable skills and experience to run things, and plans and instructions on what to do. We abbreviate the combination of Tools, Resources, Energy, and Knowledge as the "TREK Principle.

Volume II: Space Systems Engineering

 For as long as the Solar System has existed, the Earth has not been a closed system. It has interacted with the Universe beyond our atmosphere in various ways. The most important is solar energy from the Sun, balanced by thermal energy radiating back to space. But it is only since 1957 that we have been able to intentionally send objects into space. Prior to that the billions of people who have ever lived, all the artifacts of our civilization, and the biosphere which supports us, were limited to a relatively thin layer near the Earth's surface.

 The material and energy resources in space are vastly larger than those available from the Earth's surface. In the long term it makes sense to use them to add to or replace what we use here. Thus can help reduce or prevent further damage to the environment we live in, and even help it to heal. We also have opportunities to do new things we can't do on Earth.

 The same engineering principles we use on Earth apply in space too. But reaching space is difficult, distances are enormous, and the environments are very different. Unlike Earth, everything is also in motion relative to each other. Volume II addresses these differences by first introducing science and engineering subjects related to space. The next major section covers space transport. To do anything in space you first have to leave Earth to get there, and generally travel to specific destinations afterwards. Another section covers terrestrial engineering technologies as adapted to space, and methods that are specific to the space environment.

 The rest of Volume II continues the series of examples of self-improving systems to space. Volume II follows Volume I because the first such systems must be supplied from Earth. Space examples and projects are organized by distance and difficulty, which is approximately the order we would attempt them. Systems in previous space locations can also be used to help build seed elements for later ones. The environments and resources in space differ for each region. So we will also provide descriptions of these conditions. Many future space projects and programs are speculative right now. We present ones based on known science and technology, but we don't know which will end up being practical and actually happen.

Links and Sources edit

 A two volume set cannot contain all the details needed to understand and build complex projects like seed factories. Where possible we link to online open-source resources, such as Wikipedia and the Internet Archive. Links are generally capitalized in bold-face to help recognize them. Other headings and key terms are also in bold but not linked. Not everything is available from open sources, so we also reference copyrighted works where appropriate. If you are having difficulty accessing them through libraries or purchase, you can contact the contributors below for help.

Project and Book Contributors edit

 These books are being developed as part of the Seed Factory Project, an open-source collaboration to develop the relevant technology and hardware. Being open-source, we have chosen to use the Wikibooks site to host the books as we develop them, and plan to make other project data similarly available. The books are currently far from complete.

 The original author is Dani Eder, 6485 Rivertown Rd., Fairburn GA, 30213, user Danielravennest on Wikibooks, and email Other contributors are welcome and can choose to add their names and contact info here if they wish. Otherwise the "View history" tab on any page indicates the source of editorial changes. If you contribute to the books, we ask that you provide us with links to sources, data, and calculations, so that others can check the work and make improvements.