Here’s some insane person’s fantasy about using robotic bugs to spy on and kill people. The voice-over is flirting with that whole hollywood macho tone – an indication that they’re living in movie-land rather than the real world. Just like Ronald Reagan – who had an alarming habit of telling anecdotes about his life which were actually from movies, and they named a battleship after him. I’m talking about The US Air Force.
Some other people, equally demented have seen Terminator and instead of trying to kill off the inventor of Skynet before he managed to do any damage, they’ve set up a thing where AI systems can compete with each other to see who’s best at killing off the human race.
So anyway, robotic insects. Marvelous. I followed all the links from the BotJunkie post above, and spent a morning perusing for others etc…
It flies, it crawls, it gives me the creeps. It’s got that whole scrabbly bat-bug vibe going on.
Then there’s this one:
Another, prettier one here…
So what do these all have in common.
1) they’re all little flying robots that look a bit like bugs
2) they all employ first-personism
3) they’re all evil. Either for spying or killing people – apart from the last one maybe. Or any of the other ones.
4) they’re all a bit rubbish.
I mean no offence etc, they’re a lot better than I could do – I can barely tie my shoelaces, but if you compare them to an actual insect… they’re crap. Take a proper hornet for example. It can :
- fly : really accurately. Straight through holes the same size that it is without hesitation.
- walk : like the clappers, up walls, upside down on the ceiling, all limbs individually sensored and controlled.
- see / smell / feel / hear / taste? and god knows what else
- cope with being waterlogged.
- 3D print using locally sourced materials (their nests are 3d printed)
- self-fuel using locally sourced materials.
- reproduce itself from locally sourced materials, with sexual selection and variation so evolution happens.
- work/live/fight/build communally.
Now that, my friends is quite a feat of engineering. Think of the best flying machine we have today… a stealth bomber? It doesn’t come close to what a simple wasp can achieve.
So I’m guessing that we’re going to learn to make “brains” that learn how to use alien systems faster than we’re going to learn how to build robots that actually manage to do what mad-scientists want them to. I’m guessing that the biotech revolution is going to merge with and eclipse all the others – robotics, nanotech etc… they’re not going to be like they are in sci-fi movies because it’s easier (and a lot more potent) to program/adapt existing creatures than it is to make them from scratch.
It’s a question of interface… and there have been movements in that direction of late. Rat brains controlling robots, synthetic cells making electronics, protein making cell machinery etc etc. There was a talk on TED a couple of years ago where someone had programmed a machine to “learn how to walk”…
…to be honest, I can’t see any other approach working as system complexity increases. Genetic Algorithms etc.
Make a hardware problem a software problem. That’s my advice. Machines that learn. Then we’re really in trouble.