Imagine a world where robots built robots, but they were able to make their own decisions on how, and had the knowledge to build them better each time without human interference. Imagine no more, it’s happening at the University of Cambridge.
It was only a few weeks ago when Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warned about the dangers of intelligent machines.
Obviously, it has a lot of work to go before it gets to robotics world domination
But with warnings coming from respected scientists, is robotics going too far? The research was led by Dr. Fumiya Iida, and conducted at the University of Cambridge; you can read their paper that was published in PLoS One.
The experiment was quite simple: The robot arm, “mother robot,” as described in the paper, was provided with a selection of blocks, with each one containing a small motor. Then it glued them together however it saw fit.
The little creation would then come to life and attempt to move across the table. The “mother” would observe its progress with its camera eye, the whole time gauging its effectiveness by how far the “child” would travel in a certain time frame.
On the origin of (robot) species:
According to IFL Science: The “baby robot” will eventually run out of power, and it’s the robot arm’s duty to look, learn, and adapt so that the next one it builds travels a little further than the last. It dutifully repeats this process without any human intervention.
As each generation progresses, the preferential traits are passed on. The fittest baby-bots were kept unchanged into the next generation, while mutations and alterations were introduced in the less fit ones.
Dr. Iida said: “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.”
Dr. Iida talks about bio-inspired robotics:
The University of Cambridge said in a statement that researchers have observed the process of evolution by natural selection at work in robots, by constructing a ‘mother’ robot that can design, build and test its own ‘children,’ and then use the results to improve the performance of the next generation, without relying on computer simulation or human intervention.
“One of the big questions in biology is how intelligence came about—we’re using robotics to explore this mystery,” said Iida. “We think of robots as performing repetitive tasks, and they’re typically designed for mass production instead of mass customization, but we want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity.”
This in itself will not start robotics world domination, but it does leave a question about how far are we willing to go? The idea of having robots that can make more of themselves, or better still evolve themselves into smarter and generally better ones, is quite unnerving.