"Autofac" is a 1955
science fiction short storyby Philip K. Dickthat features one of the earliest treatments of self-replicating machines. 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. Unfortunately, the ability to control the autofacs 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.
A very similar story, "
The Waging of Peace" was published in 1959 by Frederik Pohl.
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