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Biomimicry in Robotics: Why You Should Get Yourself a Robot

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Make no mistake. We, the feeble humans, will soon bend our knees to our new robotic overlords. But what will our new masters look like? That, paradoxically, is entirely up to us.

And you know what’s even more scary? It seems like we are making lives difficult for our future selves for no apparent reason at all. We’re constantly trying to make our robots faster, smarter, more agile and more… animal-like. Yes, animal-like. The average human doesn’t hold a candle to the average cheetah in terms of speed, strength, and agility. Why should it be any different with Joe the humanoid and a super-fast robotic cheetah?

So here it is. Since we know the doomsday is coming, and at the same time we know that any attempts at stopping crazy scientists from improving their robotic offspring are downright futile, we might just as well sit back, relax, and have a look at what biomimicry has in store for us (and for future generations).

Divergent paths of evolution? Not any more

Specialization, specialization, specialization, as the old evolutionary saying goes. Mother nature taught us that if you want to be good at something, you need to specialize. And specializing comes at a cost. That’s why lions aren’t very good at writing essays, and that’s why humans no longer boast penis spines.

However, this principle doesn’t apply to robots. After all, why should it? A robot can swim like a jellyfish, slither like a snake, fly like a hummingbird and jump like a grasshopper. And it’s just a matter of time until any robot will be able to do all those things.

‘I Robot’ or ‘We Robot’?

Selflessness. One quality we humans are so proud of and at the same time a quality so many of us so painfully lack. No matter how hard we try, even the most unselfish representatives of our kind are bound to perceive the world as individuals. We can express our ideas, experiences, and emotions, but can we impart them on someone else instantly? Can we download somebody else’s mindset to make sure we do everything in unison? No. At least not yet. Can robots do it? Sure they can.

People have been trying to harness the power of the collective for centuries and sadly, they keep failing miserably. Try making people work for the good of the community and you’ll end up with another USSR-style abomination. Try telling people they should switch to their bicycles so that their grandchildren can breathe fresh air, and see what happens. Robots do not have that problem. Give swarm robotics a couple of years and one day you may wake up in the middle of something like this.

Undetectable communication channels

Collective behavior is not enough. First, to take over the world, our robotic brethren have to come up with a way of communicating without us ever knowing (I bet we won’t even notice anything is amiss until some kind of skynet shuts everything down). And hey, what do you know. Turns out Andy Russel, an engineer at Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, Australia, is already working on that! Thanks to his brilliant idea of mimicking the way African cave-dwelling crickets communicate, robots are now able to decode messages out of thin air!

A ‘sender’ robot is equipped with a speaker cone that projects rings of pressurized air. These in turn are picked up at the other end by air pressure sensors attached to the ‘receiver’ robot. Easy enough, eh? Forget the wireless. Using binary code and some air, the little robot buggers are able to transmit some pretty complicated messages. Like “Guys, let’s start a robot apocalypse”, for example.

The end is nigh

The message is simple. If you don’t like the idea of being changed into a battery, you’d better keep your eyes open. Don’t panic, adapt. Buy yourself a robot and be very kind to it (some look better than others, so be sure to make the right choice). Some day, once the dust after the robot rebellion finally settles, this acquaintance may save your life.

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About Jan Belezina