In a sci-inspired breakthrough, scientists have created a robot that doesn’t need human beings to birth robot babies into the world. Cool as that may sound, the notion that sounds like a slippery slope.
Thankfully, the people responsible for this milestone assure humanity that it doesn’t herald the age of machines, in which we fleshy inferiors are subservient to our mechanical masters. Instead, this artificial evolution may actually end up helping our species.
Famous last words.
What these scientists have essentially demonstrated is that their mommy robot can build its own babies, not give birth to them. These babies are far from cute and cuddly, but simply plastic cubes with motors inside, BBC explains.
The “mother” robot arm assembles her babies by gluing together various pieces and motors into a variety of patterns. The sci-fi factor comes in with this element of the experiment: the mom sizes up her babies, figures out which ones are made the best, and then chooses which ones will live and die, NBC News added.
The robot bases this decision on cold hard facts: how far the babies move without human involvement. Those that don’t make the cut are disassembled.
That sounds pretty harsh, but Mother Nature and natural selection pretty much work the same way, noted Fumiya Iida at the University of Cambridge, who spearheaded the scary experiment.
“Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on. That’s essentially what this robot is doing — we can actually watch the improvement and diversification of the species.”
The robot essentially remembers this data when birthing a new “generation,” tweaking the best designs or adding the successful elements into the losers to make them better. In other words, the design is constantly improved so that the next crop of mechanical children can move even further.
So far, the mommy robot has built ten generations of kids. The youngest ones move twice the distance as the oldest.
The point of all this is to make robots serve mankind better. Scientists want to develop robots that can improve themselves and adapt, and do the same while performing the various jobs we already use them for. Iida said these evolving robots could actually find defects while building cars, then fix them on their own. Or they could experiment with crop harvesting to up our yield.
“One of the big questions in biology is how intelligence came about – we’re using robotics to explore this mystery, but we want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity.”
The mother robot and her babies may get even smarter — scientists plan to make the children more complex, or improve their gaits. This all sounds about as unnerving as a metal snake that charges an electric car by itself.
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]