Machines that own themselves in bitcoin


Yes I really mean machines that own themselves. This is the first of a three-part series that will take the reader through my vision of the future. I see this future as within this decade, i.e. the next six years.


Imagine an AI machine is built, say a robotic waiter. Not too difficult, we almost have this already, but let’s add a tiny difference.


This robot waiter will serve food and drinks to people in a restaurant all day every day. It requires certain things such as:

  • Power
  • Repairs

The robot charges customers for each item they buy. The customer simply pays in bitcoin to the robots internal wallet. The robot can plug itself into a wall socket and recharge, of course paying the wall socket’s wallet in bitcoin. The robot can be paid by the establishment owner by the hour, or the robot could be paid a % of all orders. This is something that people will resolve as time goes by and choose different systems initially.

As the robot breaks or servo’s wear out (if using servo’s of course, another story) it will require repairs. This is a simple mechanism. The robot takes himself to the repair shop and of course pays the mechanic in bitcoin. Of course many security features will be built in such as a tamper proof wallet to prevent theft of the system.

As the robot requires no tips and will not steal, this scenario looks pretty workable, but let’s take it further.

Who built the robot?

This is easy, anybody or any company. This is a market driven environment and will be open to all comers. The competition to release these will be ferocious, eventually. The early mover position here will initially be costly, but the rewards could be significant.

These people can benefit in many ways, the robot could immediately pay a % of its takings to the builder, maybe even up to a certain level. After the builder is paid back, the robot can reduce its costs to the restaurant. The builder could sell the robot, the options of varying business models are truly staggering. In any case the opportunities for success are patently obvious though. Without bitcoin or similar these options are incredibly limited, if not impossible.

Who owns the robot?

This is potentially the beautiful part. After a payback period, the robot owns himself. It can go from restaurant to restaurant to find the best paying restaurant. It can tell the restaurant owner how much it has to charge to allow it to perform its duty. It can also be outperformed by a newer model that is faster, cheaper or in other ways more suitable.

What happens at the robot’s end of life?

At the end of life the robot will check itself into a builder. The builder will charge the robot for whatever bitcoin it has left and of course parts. The robot may be re-purposed to perform other tasks, upgraded to a later model etc.

Other obvious examples

  • Autonomous car, e.g. A car that picks people up, gets repaired and pays for its own power.
  • Service station attendant, pretty similar to above idea.
  • Aeroplane
  • Train

The list is pretty obvious and huge. This purely the tip of the iceberg though. For readers who have read my other blog post then part 2 may not be so much of a surprise. It may be though as the implications are pretty amazing and obvious.

Enthusiastic human :-)

Posted in bitcoin
6 comments on “Machines that own themselves in bitcoin
  1. […] the first part of this series I suggested that machines can own themselves. This seems reasonable and there are […]

  2. I suggest that an interesting baby step towards this would be the cloudbot that owns itself. All that is required is:

    * a cloud service provider that can be paid in bitcoin, with
    * a management api accessible to the cloudbot, and
    * a cloudbot framework for hosting any service in a cloudbot kind of way

    The cloudbot would:

    * collect bitcoin. for the service it provides and pay the cloud service provider for its hosting services
    * scale itself according to its popularity or lack of it, upgrading and downgrading its cloud service provider provision accordingly
    * manage the price of its service accordingly
    * collect email addresses
    * provide public accounts and historical data
    * send out begging letters if near death
    * manage its own suicide if necessary

  3. mikelorrey says:

    As long as the robot is sapient, sure. The problem with sapients working menial jobs, of course, is boredom.

  4. Argent says:

    Assuming some legal mechanism that’s in place to protect the robot’s rights, there’s no reason to bring “bitcoin” into this. And if there isn’t, unless the robot’s accumulated bitcoins are worth significantly more than the robot’s value as parts, there would be nothing keeping some rando from taking the robot as abandoned and salvaging it… whatever technical measures protect the robot’s software integrity and bitcoin store don’t matter if the bitcoins aren’t what you’re after.

    Some kind of corporate identity for the robot would allow it to have ordinary funds managed by itself in its own right. The ownership of the corporation could be some kind of recursive shell corporation or a cooperative of robots (which would itself provide a mechanism for maintaining protection for the robot family).

    • David Irvine says:

      I agree; legal mechanism, smart contract etc. There are probably many ways of such self ownership or measure of value. I think the point of using bitcoin was to simplify that and keep away from centralised controls and fraud etc.

      I agree though there are ways to do this and I think we all need to start wondering what these are as tech moves forward and perhaps there are less jobs or more automation. If it can be made to be self measuring and cheapest possible solution then it’s a great start.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Member of The Internet Defense League

Follow Metaquestions on

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,676 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: