If there ever is a robot uprising, I fear I may be at ground zero. In a case where reality mirrors art (kinda sorta), Carnegie Mellon researchers (including Seth Goldstein) are working on a swarm of small robots held together by magnetic fields. This will allow them to take on just about any shape. Of course, this is still a long ways off. What Seth et al are currently working on is a control strategy for said microbots. This touches on one of the most fascinating aspects of computer science to me: emergent behavior. Imagine designing an algorithm that will allow a swarm of small robots to do (collectively) a complex task with each robot only obeying simple rules. Good times!
But I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to point out the amusing end-of-the-world aspects of this particular bit o’ research. Seth says:
“I’ll be done when we produce something that can pass a Turing test for appearance. You won’t know if you’re shaking hands with me or a claytronics copy of me.”
Seth, I think we’ll all be done when that day comes. Build a thousand of these claytronic cylons and they will overthrow the world’s most powerful military government (aka USA) in a few short hours. Once the danger has been identified, the following dialogue might ensue at the White House:
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says, out of breath, “Madame President, what are your orders?”
“Declare immunity to the Homo claytronae and stand down all forces.”
The Secretary of State steps forward, face rippling, “You heard her. Now on your knees, meatsack.”
Ahh. A boy can dream.