Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel and its sequels explored the possible effects on humanity of robots that were so lifelike they could not be easily distinguished from real people. Well, we don't have that kind of technology to worry about yet, but apparently robotics and artificial intelligence are sophisticated enough to build robots that can fool cockroaches and even take leadership roles in their "society".

A matchbox-sized robot that can infiltrate a pack of cockroaches and influence their collective behaviour has been developed by European scientists.

The tiny robot smells and acts just like a roach, fooling the real insects into accepting it as one of their own. Through its behaviour, the robot can persuade a group of cockroaches to venture out into the light despite their normal preference for the dark, for example.

The researchers behind the robot believe it could be used to catch cockroaches and that bots designed to mimic other animals could one day work on farms controlling flocks of sheep and chickens by similar means.

I think it's interesting to consider interactions between creatures and robots, but it's also important to consider emergent relationships amongst artificial agents such as I did in my dissertation. As the number of computers/robots increases, the majority of interactions will turn out to be machine-machine rather than machine-man.

I for one welcome our imminent robot overlords, if they aren't already among us.



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