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Alarming developments have recently developed in robotics. It seems no one is satisfied any longer with a robot that brushes your teeth or acts like a penguin. No, now people want robots that work together, eat other robots, or eat living things and fuel themselves from their organic matter.

In late 2001, scientists in England developed a robot that seeks out slugs, "digests" them, grinds their biomatter into a pasty matrix type dealy, puts this into a fuel cell, and uses the fuel cell to run a generator that recharges their batteries. Seemingly harmless, this robot uses infra-red sensors to recognize slugs and is able to capture them because of their slow locomotion. Apparently there's a need for such a robot (GB alone spends more than US$30 million on slug protection alone), but this certainly raises social implications and ethical considerations.

Just as alarming is a project set to start in late March 2002, also in England. I detect a bit of "I'm British and I Want to Play God" syndrome. Nevertheless, a new experiment pits packs of intelligent predator robots against a herd of just as intelligent "prey" robots that can breed more robots if they evade the predators in a controlled environment for the purpose of seeing if robots can learn to work together. These robots have the ability to learn from experience and evolve together. The experimenters want to see if they can work together to create a "robot civilization" which can later be applied to "create teams of worker robots destined for employment in deep outer space or undersea exploration." Right. More socical implicerations there.

These seem to follow Asimov's three and a half or whatever rules for robots, but think of the possibilities. Who listens to what anyone in the fifties said anymore? Is anyone paying attention to McCarthy or Truman or Kruschev? No, of course they're not, because they're all dead. Just like you and I will be once these robots start taking over the world as they've been programmed to do.

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