Ive recently been playing

Horizon: Zero Dawn

which, in large part, features the typical grey goo scenario (Automated manufacturers consuming all life on Earth in their efforts to endlessly reproduce). The difference being, it is played out with large scale robots, like giant walking factories as opposed to nanites. And I got to wondering, is there a specific, accepted term for this type of scenario? Or maybe a larger catch-all term?

  • That took some playing, but thank you! Also added in what Im tering a "Typical grey goo scenario" => (Automated manufacturers consuming all life on Earth in their efforts to endlessly reproduce)
    – Nick
    Jan 22, 2018 at 11:49
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_goo I think its on topic for this site as it is prevelant in a lot of SciFi (one major instance I can think of are the Replicators for Stargate, also Prey by Michael Chricton), Im just wondering if theres specific terminology for this scale of it.
    – Nick
    Jan 22, 2018 at 11:56
  • Hmm, looks to be on-topic based on this ruling although I can't tell if this question specifically fits therein.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 22, 2018 at 12:01
  • If it truly is off topic then I apologize, I just didnt think it would really fit anywhere else as Im not intending it as pertaining to a specific world, merely using one as an example. And the grain which this train of thought grew from.
    – Nick
    Jan 22, 2018 at 12:03
  • My conclusion is that it is on-topic, so keep at em! I'm just going to create a tag for your game so someone with more knowledge may find it. We allow things like [history-of] questions, I don't see why this should be off-topic.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 22, 2018 at 12:04

1 Answer 1



This term, coined by Robert Freitas in 2000, is often used to mean (literally) the consumption of an ecosystem, and was used to describe molecular nanotechnology gone wrong.

Freitas wrote:

Perhaps the earliest-recognized and best-known danger of molecular nanotechnology is the risk that self-replicating nanorobots capable of functioning autonomously in the natural environment could quickly convert that natural environment (e.g., "biomass") into replicas of themselves (e.g., "nanomass") on a global basis, a scenario usually referred to as the "grey goo problem" but perhaps more properly termed "global ecophagy".
Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations

The term Gray-goo however seems to be used extensively in the paper to reference the phenomenon.

  • Still not giving up hope on a more specific term, but Im accepting your answer, thank you!
    – Nick
    Jan 23, 2018 at 11:15

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