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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Inorganic Evolution  
  A process by which robots could alter their own structure, or the ways that they interact with other robots, to adapt to a changing world.  

Lem is not suggesting that robots could create themselves from metal and other materials spontaneously. In the novel, he hypothesizes how an adaptable swarm of very simple machines could have evolved from the homeostatic robots of a highly advanced society.

He begins by hypothesizing that the original ancestors of the swarm of nanomachines were various robots from a Lyre scout ship.

"The robots were unharmed and left the ship. They were highly specialized homeostatic mechanisms, capable of withstanding the most difficult environmental conditions...

We'd have to assume, of course, that these machines were capable of producing other machines according to their specific needs of the moment. ...the robots would have perfectly adapted to life on the continents of the planet.

...Hundreds of generations later the 'offspring' of the first mechanisms were no longer anything like the first products created by the Lyre civilization. Do you follow me? It was the beginning of an evolution of nonliving things, an evolution of machines."

From The Invincible, by Stanislaw Lem.
Published by Poland in 1954
Additional resources -

Lem also argues that, in the event of machine evolution, the larger and more complex robots created by organic beings (like ourselves) would fare poorly against simpler machine forms, at least partly because of energy requirements:

"In this battle, the 'intellectually' superior mechanisms, which needed considerable amounts of energy (not least, because of their size), were no match for the more economical and more productive machines -"

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Invincible
  More Ideas and Technology by Stanislaw Lem
  Tech news articles related to The Invincible
  Tech news articles related to works by Stanislaw Lem

Inorganic Evolution-related news articles:
  - SYMBRION - Symbiotic Evolutionary Robot Organisms

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