Date: May 17, 2098
To: Commanding Officer, DARPA R&D
Re: Project Proposal - Autonomous Cooperating Nannite Weapon System
The proposed system will consist of approximately one trillion (10^12) potentially self-replicating microscopic robotic devices with communication and cooperative capabilities.
It is theorized that a critical mass of about 300 billion (3 x 10^11) communicating nodes will produce a high level consciousness that can provide system level command and control for the overall system. Experimental data thus far shows that around 50 billion (5 x 10^10) simple nodes cause the spontaneous emergence of a simple animal awareness that 1) seeks self-preservation, and 2) learns from and responds to its environment.
A basic nanotech computer/robot with communication capability has been developed which can replicate itself from the environment. Replication requires between five minutes and an hour, depending on the richness of resources in the local environment. By creating a single such nannite and allowing it to reproduce itself, a 50 billion count network of nannites is generated in between three hours and three days. Up to now, the nannites have been initialized with a maximum count of 5 x 10^10 so when that limit is reached, they stop reproducing.
A simple enhancement of the current system is to raise the limit on the number of nodes in the system. Current scientific understanding indicates that the average human brain contains about 8.5 x 10^10 neurons. Currently available nannites are not as sophisticated as a human neuron, but it is believed that a larger number of nodes can yield a similar level of consciousness and intelligence.
Authorization is requested to increase the current limit in steps from 50 billion to 200 billion as a test. This should allow assessment of the rate at which consciousness increases relative to the increment in the number of nodes in the network.