(Image courtesy of Festo.)
A German company is building an army of robot ants:
Festo has created a fleet of bionic ants capable of working together, as well as function on their own, in order to complete tasks, just as their real-life counterparts do, according to Business Insider. The objectives for these ants will focus on automating factories.
These tiny machines, developed under the company’s Bionic Learning Network, were born through the process of biomimicry, which combines nature and robotics to create machines.
Festo said back in March that the insects are built with 3D-printed plastic powder melted by a laser, as well as 3D printed circuitry. Their legs are ceramic and their pincers are flexible actuators that can move quickly without using much energy.
Other features include a stereo camera and floor sensor that work together to help the ant figure out its location and identify objects that it needs to grab. The robot also comes with an antennae that charges its lithium batteries.
The ants are tasked with objectives such as transporting large, heavy loads that they wouldn’t be able to lift on their own.
SkyNet fears aside, what becomes of the human race when our every whim is catered to by robots? Arthur C. Clarke (see Childhood’s End) predicted that effortless wealth would lead to a global blossoming of peace and artistic pursuits — but in that story the mysterious Overlord aliens were around to keep a lid on our baser drives.
I should note that poverty isn’t what usually drives people to violence on a mass scale; ideologically driven desire for power does. Would effortless wealth cure that desire? I don’t know, but decades of experiments with “spreadin’ the wealth around a little” aren’t encouraging. It may well be that for most people (including yours truly), the biggest benefit of working for a living is keeping them out of trouble.
Or suppose Clarke did have it right. Japan and Europe have had it pretty easy since the end of WWII, with the U.S. military playing the role of the Overlords, but those results aren’t encouraging, either. In Clarke’s book, the Overlords brought peace, prosperity, and artistic freedom — but they also portended the end of humanity. Humanity quickly evolved into a non-corporeal collective which eventually consumed the Earth to provide energy to join the intergalactic Overmind. It’s the Progressive idea of Heaven, I suppose, and it’s rather sad. In Europe and Japan the outcome is proving much the same, if less dramatic. Those societies are breeding themselves out of existence, or rather choosing not to breed themselves into continued existence. In the Great Northern Swathe from Spain in the West, through Europe, the Steppes and Siberia, all the way to Japan, entire peoples are evolving into nothingness. And it isn’t just about reproduction; in Japan, young people can’t even bother themselves to get laid anymore.
Do we lose the will to live when we lose the thrills of living?