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I read a story in a collection of short sci fi stories which I can no longer remember the name of.

In the story mankind built large, self-repairing, sentient factories that made war machines and supplies for them (they were fighting other humans on the same planet). The war was so devastating that the command structure of the humans was wiped out, and though the war machines won the war, no-one had the control codes to turn off the factories, so they kept building more and more useless junk for the humans.

The main characters are trying to convince the ruling AI that they don't want more junk, but the AI doesn't care, so they trick it into attacking a different factory, which causes a factory war and the story ends with the factories launching seed factories into outer space to take over the universe.

What is the name of this story?

marked as duplicate by Null Nov 29 '16 at 16:29

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"Autofac" by Philip K. Dick

Summary from Wikipedia:

It is set some years after an apocalyptic world war has devastated Earth's civilizations, leaving only a network of hardened robot "autofacs" in operation to supply goods to the human survivors. Once humanity has recovered enough to want to begin reconstruction, the autofacs are immediately targeted for shutdown since they monopolize the planet's resources, but the ability to control them was lost in the war. This leaves the future of humanity, and the planet, in uncertainty as the autofacs consume every resource they can attain to produce what they perceive as needed. The story involves the human survivors as they try to steal the supplies they need and search for a way to take the power of production back into their own hands.

It appeared in a collection called Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick.

Another website has its own plot summary which includes the ending you describe:

After attacking each other, many of the Autofacs are disabled. Perine notices that instead of the automated factories, vines are taking over the world. Local manufacturing and food production has revived in the human settlements. They have been investigating the factories, finding many of them destroyed. Perine and O’Neill discuss opening up the factories for production, now under their control again. They enter the Kansas City Autofac to see what they can revive. They go down deep into the factory, looking for things to salvage of machines to control. Deep into the factory, Morrison feels something begin to move. They learn that the Autofac—although destroyed—has been sending out copies of itself like seeds around the planet and possible to other planets.

The same website mentions that the story was also found in Minority Report and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick. The story is available from that publication on Google Books, and also at the Internet Archive.

  • 1
    The story is also available at the Internet Archive. – user14111 Nov 29 '16 at 6:06
  • @user14111 Thanks for the Internet Archive link. I've edited it into my answer. In the future, feel free to edit such links into my answers yourself. – Null Nov 29 '16 at 14:25

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