If you ever took pride in the fact that robots can’t evolve like humans, think again. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a “mother” robot that can produce smaller “baby” robots out of mechanized blocks. That’s not the most shocking thing. The mother bot then observes how quickly the baby bots could perform a particular task, and selects the best one to “live,” just like Mother Nature does.
The rise of robot species
Findings of the study were published in the journal PLOS One. The study shows that robots could evolve on their own, much like humans and other animals do. To mimic biological evolution, the mother robot looks for the best traits in its babies, and uses that information to improve the following generations of robots.
In five different experiments, researchers led by Fumiya Iida of the University of Cambridge allowed the mother bot — which looks like a large robotic arm — to produce baby bots until ten generations. The mother bot was allowed to use the information from the “fittest” bot to create a new “generation,” either by improving the successful design or by integrating those traits into the less successful ones.
Future robots may improve themselves without human intervention
The smaller baby bots were produced by gluing together pieces in a small plastic cube. The mother robot then observed how quickly the resulting babies could run. It would keep the design elements of the fastest ones while disassembling the rest. Researchers found that the process works. After a few generations, the baby bots were able to run twice as fast as the first generation babies. That’s natural selection and evolution at work.
Fumiya Iida said in a statement that Natural Selection is simply a process of reproduction, assessment, and improvement. And that’s what this robot (species) is doing. He said the process of robotic evolution could offer insights into how humans came about. Iida added that the future robots could be able to improve themselves without any input from humans at all. And that’s what tech wizards like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking fear the most. They fear that artificial intelligence could pose a serious threat to the human species.