Are UFOs von Neumann Probes?

Many believe UFOs can’t be extraterrestrial visitors because of the vastness of space. But what if there was a way to explore the entire Milkyway without even leaving the planet? Self-replicating space crafts called von Neumann Probes could probably cross the galaxy in 5-10 million years. Could UFOs actually be von Neumann Probes?

What’s the concept behind von Neumann Probes?

Space is a pretty big place. Exploring our galaxy, the Milkyway, almost seems impossible. But could it be achievable with technology that is a little more advanced than what we are capable of today? Yes, by using self-replicating space probes named after the mathematician and physicist John von Neumann.

The idea is to send out these space probes in all directions, their first stop might be the asteroid belt where they create copies of themself using mining and manufacturing technology. They then set out, traveling to different systems. When arriving at the systems they start mining and manufacturing again and the cycle repeats itself. All systems may not contain what’s needed but if that is the case the probe simply continues. The numbers of probes would scale up exponentially over time.

To achieve this feat of exploring and self-replication the probe would need these functions.

  • An AI (Artificial Intelligence) to guide the overall process.
  • Maintenance systems: mechanisms to self-repair.
  • Factory: mechanisms to harvest resources and replicate itself.
  • Protected data systems to run the AI and store information.
  • Engine: To provide propulsion.
  • (Optional) Communication between different probes.
A spiral galaxy (M81), Credit WikiCommons

It’s estimated that in as little as 5-10 million years the small space crafts could have visited most if not the whole galaxy. While 10 million years is vast on a human timescale it’s but a blink of an eye on a cosmic timescale. Once the process has started it’s self-sustaining and does not need outside interference.

So the question becomes why have not someone already done this? It’s not that far-off advanced technology involved. Well, maybe someone already did this and the UFOs we observe are extraterrestrial AI (Artificial Intelligence) explorers.

We are bob, we are UFOs

There is a great SciFi book series called Bobiverse by Dennis E. Taylor. The first book is called “We Are Legion (We Are Bob)“. This series explores how the galaxy could be explored by human-AI intelligence. The book is very funny and witty while at the same time very scientifically plausible.

I prefer Audiobooks and the voice acting for this book series is great. You can get if for free if you start a membership at Audible or maybe you’re already a member. The book is an Audible exclusive.

Mini-spoiler: In the books, there is a situation where a “Bob” probe arrives at a system and a planet with primitive intelligent life – essentially becoming that planets UFO mystery.

Different types of von Neumann Probes

We can imagine different types of von Neumann Probes built for specific purposes. Fiction has expanded upon some of these types of von Neumann Probes in different series and books.

Imagined self-replicating probe, Credit:


For this type the primary objective is to go where no probe has gone before, no pun intended ;). The journey and gathering of information is the goal. If they find a planet with intelligent life they would likely observe and gather data.


These are not as benign as the explorers. They could be various degrees of nasty. Their purpose could be to seek out life and destroy it, eliminating any future competitors. If UFOs are real, they have been around for a while without destroying us, so let’s not worry.


The mission would be to alter living conditions such as the atmosphere or temperature of a planet for colonization. This is probably something we could do on Mars given enough time and some technological progress. Again, let’s hope this is not what’s happening here on earth with the UFO phenomena.

Seeder ships

The purpose would be to seed life among the stars. It would be a slow but deliberate process of spreading complex life and maybe intelligent life in a (presumably) mostly life-less universe.

Caretakers or up-lifters

Have you heard about the Zoo hypothesis? Maybe aliens are here and we’re their science project… Maybe they would even defend humanity from an external threat such as a massive asteroid on a collision course. It’s a nice thought if nothing else. The caretakers typically do not interfere to avoid influencing a species culture or development. Maybe that’s why the UFOs are so damn good at avoiding contact?

Uplifting is a concept of taking an already existing species and enhancing them. Maybe making them intelligent if they are not or furthering their capabilities in other ways. It could be unlocking new abilities at a certain stage in the species development. Exciting stuff, and super speculative. Given what we know about gene-technology and gene-splicing one could imagine what a very advanced civilization might be able to accomplish.

Fine diners

These would be the “cattle munchers”, slicing up cattle and always looking for that perfect burger recipe on a galactic scale. Just kidding, we can probably, and hopefully, drop that idea. 🙂

Tiny UFOs theory

Another suggestion involving von Neumann Probes comes from Zaza Osmanov, astrophysicist and professor of physics at the Free University of Tbilisi, Georgia. In a paper linked here, he makes the suggestion that the concept of von Neumann Probes workes better on the nano-scale.

What’s out there? Tiny space crafts maybe. Credit The Sun

By scaling down the technology, the tiny probes can be powered by hydrogen atoms and these are abundant in space. This would radically affect their “spread” and allow them to reproduce much faster. 100 nanoprobes launched into space would need only four light-years to create 10 to the 33rd power, a decillion, offspring. (Four lightyears would be about the distance from our closest solar system, Afla Centauri.)

While individually these nano-probes would be very difficult to find, Osmanov speculates they could be seen collected in large swarms emitting light as they consume hydrogen.

Osmanov focuses more on the math behind the self-replication than explaining the purpose of these tiny nanoscale probes. As a possible explanation of the UFO phenomena, they cannot account for the physical metallic disc-shaped UFO observations or the solid Tic-Tac observations.

But what about the Fermi Paradox?

The Fermi Paradox struggles with…

“the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability “

The Fermi Paradox often comes up in conjunction to any ET speculative scenario.

The speculation for this article is that there is no paradox. The answer to the question “Where are all the aliens?” (posed by the Fermi Paradox) is simply – they are here but we’re not yet been able to identify them. Exiting and a bit scary at the same time.

If you want to read up more on the Fermi Paradox, I go into more detail in this post. There are many interesting solutions to the Fermi Paradox. In his book “Universe Is Teeming with Aliens … WHERE IS EVERYBODY?” Stephen Webb explores 75 different proposed solutions. You can pick it up at Amazon here.

Conclusion – Are UFOs von Neumann Probes?

Be warned, this is speculation territory for sure.

What the concept of the von Neumann Probes does is that it shows us neither the level of technology required nor the vast distances in space become insurmountable obstacles. I find this very interesting and humans might in the future use von Neumann Probes to explore our end of the galaxy. The concept does not require FTL-drives (faster than light drives) or space folding that are common tropes in fiction to get around the problem of distances. However this is also a downside for communications, the civilization that sent out the explorers will need to wait a seriously long time to get any information from the probes relay network without FTL technology.

From the famous “Gimbal” video Credit: Youtube, TTSA, DOD

How well does the concept of von Neumann Probes fit the observable UFO phenomena?

  • The AI concept of the probes would suggest no “little green men” or “grays” are controlling the crafts. If this fits the bill is up for interpretation, the core UFO phenomena do not call for living ETs piloting the crafts but a portion of UFO close encounters or alleged UFO abductions does.
  • UFO/UAP observables. The physics breaking UAP performance reported by many military pilots would suggest technological capabilities beyond what’s needed for von Neumann Probes, making the concept a lackluster explanation for the UFO phenomena.
  • Many different UFO shapes are observed. This could be tied to the different roles and potential purposes of the von Neumann Probes. However, I feel the UFO phenomena with everything from lights to physical crafts are too divergent to be explained by von Neumann Probes.

In conclusion one ET civilization sending out von Neumann Probes on an exploratory mission does not explain our UFO phenomena very well. Could some bits and parts of the von Neumann Probes hold true for the UAPs, the unknowns, that are being observed? Maybe, but as a whole concept, I don’t see von Neumann Probes as an explanation to our UFO mystery.

There might not be any von Neumann Probes in the UFO Shop here on the site, but many other cool UFO-themed products. Check it out. And have a good day!

Greetings earthlings!

My name is Goran Eliasson, I live in Sweden with my wife and our two boys. In our family Gaming and Star Wars are shared interest among the boys, myself included.

I’ve always liked the Sci-Fi genre, the possibility of a fantastical future and technological progress. Another closely related interest is space and I’ve probably seen most of the space documentaries out there.

More recently I decided to write a blog about the UFO phenomena. It’s a fascinating mystery with big implications and room for a lot of speculation. But I want to separate speculation, circumstantial evidence, and real evidence (none so far :)) in the articles. I’m not a Ufologist, just a curious individual who enjoys the topic

Please remember we all have different opinions, Think Before You Speak or Write Something that is cruel to Others. After all, We are only Humans. Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes. To share your experiences or just leave a comment there is a area below. Read or listen. We are the change the world has been waiting for! Have you witnessed an unidentified flying object? You are not alone. Whether you think UFOs are black projects, extraterrestrial craft, something else altogether, or just don’t know, again: you are not alone! Unconditional love. The road we all get to walk.
Unconditional love is like the sun.WE ARE THE DISCLOSURE !!! ~~~ WE HAVE NEVER BEEN ALONE!
Love and Regards,
Happy Quarantine !

Thank You,

Nancy Thames : )


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