These days everyone is talking about automation, and how robots may take millions of our jobs over the next 20 years. By some estimates, this new wave of automation could wipe out nearly half of the jobs that exist today, and what will replace them isn’t exactly clear. The rapid advance of digital technology has spawned an existential crisis in the workforce of the developed world.
However, robots that work for other humans are just the tip of the iceberg. There are all kinds of ways that robots could drastically change life for humans, and not in a good way. If anything, the robots that are coming to our workplaces are pretty tame compared to some of the stuff we’re going to see in the near future. Buckle up, because the following is pretty weird.
Researchers in Amsterdam recently created robots that can ‘mate’ and create offspring in a roundabout way. Each robot is programmed with a genome that determines their software and hardware. They can communicate with each other through WiFi, and combine that information randomly to create a new genome, which is then sent to a 3D printer. Thus, a new robot is born in a way that resembles evolution in nature. So what could be so advantageous about teaching robots to reproduce themselves in this manner?
In the Robot Baby Project at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, scientists have developed a way for robots to have ‘sex’ and pass on their DNA to offspring.
Doing this can allow them to ‘develop their bodies through evolution,’ making for successive generations that have more advanced physical and behavioural capabilities.
As the process continues, the researchers say robots can become more suitable for use in unknown environments that could be hazardous to humans, like deep sea mines or even other planets.
Of course, all great technologies are by their nature, a double-edged sword. Every technology that can be used for good can also be used for evil. Or even with the best of intentions, any new technology can lead to horrific accidents. Self-reproducing robots will be no different.
Right now these little robots seem novel and harmless, but when combined with other advances that are on the horizon, they could be a serious threat. Right now we already have artificial intelligence algorithms with the capability to learn and retain information, and we already have robots that can consume matter from the environment for energy. Altogether, science has laid the groundwork for machines that act like living creatures. They could in the very foreseeable future, think, eat, and reproduce.
Think of the applications that a foreign military or a terrorist organization would see in this. They could plop a few self replicating bots in a city or in the wilderness, and give them a single non-negotiable order to say, consume and destroy a certain resource, spy on the population, or just flat-out kill everything they see. These automated bots would multiply, evolve, and learn as they carry out their mission. They could adapt to any attempts to combat them, and once they’re unleashed, they may be impossible to fully exterminate.
To be clear, that scenario is a long way off. The ability to think independently, consume resources from the environment, and reproduce, are all quite primitive in robots. Jellyfish are probably more proficient at all three of those tasks, and they don’t even have brains.
But as minor as these reproducing robots may seem, you can’t ignore the implications of what they may be capable of in the future. If ever there was a technology that could escape our ability to control and manage it, this is it.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .