Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Way to go, science!

Singapore: Will pay for blood-thirsty murderbots

Singapore, where they apparently don't get the same cautionary tales about robots turning on their masters with fatal results as we do, has decided to offer $1,000,000 to anyone who can design their very own ED-209. Not only will it be designed to autonomously hunt down and kill various human-shaped targets, it will be able to navigate complex urban environments and even operate elevators and doors (much like a Velociraptor made of metal). Worst of all, one of the requirements for the prize violates the most important rule of robotics, the one above all else that will keep us safe from their crushing robotic grip. No, not Asimov's three laws, those are like the New Year's resolutions for robots. Sure they'll stick to them, but only for a week or so. No, I'm talking about stairs. For years, despite all the terrifying advances in robotic technology, we humans felt secure in the knowledge that if a robot ever turned on us, we'd be safe as long as we could find a set of stairs nearby. As illustrated in the film Robocop, robots, with their wheels and large unwieldy feet, are simply not capable of dealing with stairs. But now Singapore has decided that their robot must have the ability to use stairways, eliminating our final line of defense.

In other horrifying news, some guys are teaching a robot arm how to stab you.

So is there any hope left for humanity? Who will save us from the mighty iron-alloy fist of the robot menace? Well, it might be researchers David Salt and John Freeman, who are developing a genetically modified plant capable of eating metal. Sure, right now the plants just extract metals from the soil, but that's really just one step away from an army of marching Venus Flytraps with a taste for titanium, devouring their way through phalanxes of robosoldiers while we sit in our homes watching the spectacle on television, marvelling at the awesome power of nature. Sure, once the robot army is defeated we'll have hordes of metal-eating plants that may or may not one day get the taste for human blood to deal with, but at least we'll be secure in one piece of knowledge: Plants can't use stairs.

2 comments:

Adam Messinger said...

"Sure, right now the plants just extract metals from the soil, but that's really just one step away from an army of marching Venus Flytraps with a taste for titanium, devouring their way through phalanxes of robosoldiers..."

If you don't read Girl Genius yet, you must start. Between this description and the "Steampunk Star Wars" illustrations, I think it'd be right up your alley. I'd recommend that you begin at the beginning, though you can get up to speed quickly with "The Story So Far" (which isn't quite up-to-date with the latest developments, but close).

Brock said...

I'd be very afraid of working with someone with the last name Freeman in any kind of scientific field.

You never know if they're a relative of the ill-fated Gordon Freeman.