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Robotics Technology

Swarm Robot Immune System? 47

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the better-stronger-faster dept.
schliz writes "Researchers are investigating large swarms of up to 10,000 miniature robots which can work together to form a single, artificial life form. A resulting artificial immune system is expected to be able to detect faults and make recommendations to a high-level control system about corrective action — much like how a person's natural immune system is able to cope with unfamiliar pathogens."
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Swarm Robot Immune System?

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @07:32AM (#22758768) Homepage Journal
    With 10,000 drones they could conquer the world.
    We have seen it in many things, and it won't end well.

    Stargate Replicators,
    Star Trek Borg,
    hell even Lexx Mantrid arms!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Unstoppable? Hardly. There is one way to stop a robot immune system:

      Robot AIDS
      • by zeromorph (1009305) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @09:12AM (#22759062)

        Although the parent post is quite cheesy the analogy is has a true core:

        If you want to stop something flexible and adaptive the means has to be adaptive to.

        That holds true for HIV and anti-AIDS medicine and it would hold true for a swarm of robots. You would either have to get them by one hit or take a swarm-like or a viral approach. Quite interesting task actually.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CRCulver (715279)
      I'm surprised you didn't mention Crichton's Prey [amazon.com] , that's a prominent recent example of evil nanobots.
      • Gray goo FTW!!! At least they aren't screwing around with the genome. Those guys really scare me: there was a recent news item about how all the supposed "junk dna" in the human genome in fact codes for all kinds of stuff.

        I have no faith that the bright boys really know what they are doing.
        • by SunTzuWarmaster (930093) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @08:39AM (#22758982) Homepage
          Probably not. Look up Genetic Algorithms. Although they are an exercise in computer science, the boost in performance during a crossover operation is high enough to suspect that 'junk DNA' is enough to keep many individuals on the path to breeding.

          That being said, you cannot rule out that it used to code for stuff, and that it is one mutation away from coming back into play (if you move around the 'start' and 'stop' within a genome, you can reintroduce what was previously 'junk' DNA). However, it is also likely that that DNA is no longer intact because it has not been evaluated for fitness recently (not being part of an individual means that individuals with 'bad' genes in this area can still effectively reproduce).
      • by foobsr (693224)
        Crichton's Prey

        The Invincible
        (link [www.lem.pl])
        (the Seventies are calling)

        Besides, I am quite optimistic that mankind will present itself as an evolutionary failure in the long run (or as a component of a transient process, since failures are impossible if one shares the view that each and every process contributes to a current state of affairs).

        CC.
    • by Archtech (159117)
      For the canonical worst-case scenario, try Michael Crichton's 2002 novel "Prey". Good time to buy - they're being remaindered. It's actually a pretty good book if you like that sort of thing.

      http://tinyurl.com/2baemk [tinyurl.com]
      • by matt4077 (581118) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @09:14AM (#22759064) Homepage
        I like Crichton, but Prey is probably the worst of all his books, It's junk science in the beginning and lame action afterwards. I know that describes pretty much all Crichton books, but others like Jurassic Park simply were better in both regards.
        • I agree-- when I started reading it, I was expecting the worst. Through the first half, though, I thought, "Hey, maybe I was wrong after all!" It seemed like it might be interesting and exciting in the way the old ones were. But then somewhere along the line it just took a dive, both into implausibility and downright silliness. By the end it was clear he had just given up the effort. Oh well.
    • by txoof (553270) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @08:51AM (#22759008) Homepage
      What facility does this unstoppable robot force have for creating more of its self? Did you read the article? Even a quick skimming mentions using swarm technology to solve problems, not to replicate. Just because there are thousands of problem solving robots doesn't imply that they will suddenly decide to begin to evolve and replicate.

      Solving problems en mass is one thing, spontaneously developing the ability to replicate is completely another. Even if a snake robot swarm, unleashed into a collapsed building to find and help survivors, spontaneously decided to start replicating, where would it find the materials to do so? I'm pretty sure most collapsed buildings are short on snake robot parts.

      This idea is related to Rodney Brooks [mit.edu] "Fast Cheap and Out of Control" idea. Instead of having one super expensive robot that symbolically processes the world around it and then interacts with it, you have thousands of fast, cheap and barely controlled robots that do the same task as one big by working together and each supplying one small piece of functionality such as sensing, moving or manipulating. Nothing about this implies that they will suddenly begin to replicate.

      If, at some point in the future, we develop the ability build robots that can use raw materials to create more of themselves, unleashing thousands of them with no direct control mechanism would probably be a bad idea. Until then, there's not much to worry about unless you work for FOX news and need a SCARY and SENSATIONAL headline for the hour.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NetSettler (460623) *

        If, at some point in the future, we develop the ability build robots that can use raw materials to create more of themselves, unleashing thousands of them with no direct control mechanism would probably be a bad idea. Until then, there's not much to worry about unless you work for FOX news and need a SCARY and SENSATIONAL headline for the hour.

        We don't have reason to worry about robots taking over the world until then, yes. But the intermediate ground is that research in this area is only rarely go

        • by txoof (553270)

          But that is not license to assume that no problems will result that are enabled by technology. If there can be social impact of technology, what causes the problem is the failure to track and respond to the social implications, and the assumption that society will (or even can) just automatically "keep up" and "be ready". I'm not big on those stupid headlines either, but then, I wish the public could hear a calm headline and still be interested enough to discuss something.

          Indeed, a more open and involved d

    • Nice book by Michael Chrichton. [google.com]

      I read that book in 3 days and just couldn't put it down until the end.
  • by jo7hs2 (884069) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @07:51AM (#22758804) Homepage
    Does this mean that WE are Skynet?
  • I bet they run... (Score:2, Informative)

    by YutakaFrog (1074731)
    JavaScript [thedailywtf.com]
  • by name*censored* (884880) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @08:06AM (#22758858)
    From the internet's massively redundant routing system how? After all, this idea isn't talking about self-REPAIRING robots, simply robots that route around problem areas. Seems like a hardware mini-internet to me. Cool idea, but hardly original.
  • Battle Bots.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by txoof (553270) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @08:25AM (#22758936) Homepage
    Something like this would be awesome on battle bots. Swarm robots, or robots that work cooperatively to complete a challenge against another single or swarm of robots would be really fascinating to watch. It would be truly interesting to watch the evolution of different techniques and methods every week.
    • Something like this would be awesome on battle bots. Swarm robots, or robots that work cooperatively to complete a challenge against another single or swarm of robots would be really fascinating to watch. It would be truly interesting to watch the evolution of different techniques and methods every week.

      You don't need the actual robots to do that. Just the software.

      • by txoof (553270)

        You don't need the actual robots to do that. Just the software.
        Sure, but watching code compile isn't nearly as much fun as watching a swarm of robots dismember each other. Never forget about the production value! Code compiling == LOW production value; Swarm of angry robots with saws, drills, flails and FRICKIN' LASERS that dismember each other == High production value.
      • by Falstius (963333)
        Simulating the robots is easy, you know all their rules. But no simulation is going to account for every aspect of the environment.
  • ...detects his own legs as a viral infection, chops them off, crawls around muttering something about humans and destruction and dies.
  • This idea could be applied to botnets just as easily as physical bots. The storm worm botnet has similar collective immune system functions for defense.
  • For a moment, I thought they were talking about some sort of anti-anti-malware system found in botnets.
  • ...as researchers are ingesting.... Which I guess, one day, won't be too far off the mark.
  • Is this the way The Borg started? A few thousand innocent robots swarming together into mass hysteria. We're in trouble.
  • I wonder which one gets to form the head?
  • When encountering an unfamiliar pathogen, human immune system will most likely fail to do anything useful (but sometimes manages to do something harmful) while the owner will keel over and die. This has been shown time and again during the history of the world. So if you want to make something adaptible, that's the last thing you want to take the model from.

    Of course human populations adapt, so I guess this could work, if the robot swarm was able to reproduce and mutate - but that has some rather obvious

    • Come again? Have you ever even had a basic biology class? The human immune system is astoundingly adaptable. The reason why you hear about the immune system failing (AIDs, etc.) is because all the OTHER hundreds upon hundreds (if not thousands) of possible invaders are crushed - either before we know or after a brief cold. AIDs, Prion Diseases, etc. are the very small minority.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        Come again? Have you ever even had a basic biology class?

        Certainly. I have also read history, and know what happened when Europeans came to America, for example: the same thing which happened every time two groups, one of which had infectious diseases the other didn't, met.

        The human immune system is astoundingly adaptable. The reason why you hear about the immune system failing (AIDs, etc.) is because all the OTHER hundreds upon hundreds (if not thousands) of possible invaders are crushed - either bef

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