To be honest I love sci-fi movies. Movies like Terminator, Transformer, Upgrade are my most favorite but I had always thought these are just fictional movies but in reality, it’s not possible or at least not in our lifetime. But a few days back after hearing news about “First Living Robot”, it changed my mind. Now I think that day is not far behind when these movies are gonna become a reality.
[If you already know what the xenobots are, then skip to the last part of this blog]
So what is this Living Robot?
A team of researchers at Tufts University and University of Vermont have build something that they are claiming to be the first living robot. They call it “xenobots”. These man-made robots can move, pick up objects and even heal themselves after being cut. These robots composed exclusively of living biological cells and can live for up to seven days.
How xenobots were made? And how do they work?
The breakthrough by a team of scientists at the University of Vermont was to create something completely new. It is the world’s first living machine designed from the ground up. Joshua bond guard a computer scientist and robotics expert co-lead the study describes it as-
What they’ve created is neither a traditional robot nor unknown species of animal it’s a new class of artifact a living programmable organism.– Joshua bond
So what’s going on here? The researchers repurposed living cells scraped from frog embryos and assembled them into entirely new life forms. The original stem cells came from an African clawed frog known by the Latin name Xenopus laevis. But these living robots don’t resemble any living creature. After being harvested the stem cells were then separated into single cells and left to incubate. The cells were cut and joined together under a microscope. The resulting Assembly of living cells has been dubbed as XENOBOTS and they’re so tiny, just about 0.04 inches or one millimeter wide. These robots can move independently and collectively and survive for weeks at a time.
These small millimeter lengths robots were designed by special supercomputers. These supercomputers running an “evolutionary algorithm” that tested thousands of 3D designs for rudimentary life forms inside a simulation. Then scientists build a different handful of designs that we’re able to propel themselves forward or fulfill a basic task inside the simulation using cauterizing tools and tweezers. According to scientists, computers model the dynamics of the biological building blocks (skin & heart muscle) and use them as LEGO bricks to build different organism anatomies. This evolutionary algorithm starts with a population of randomly-assembled designs, then repeatedly deletes the worst ones and replaces them by randomly-mutated copies of the better ones. This algorithm is like survival of the fittest inside a computer. (Read this paper to know more)
Different properties of xenobots:
- These xenobots can live in freshwater
- They can live up to seven days.
- These living robots can survive for a week on the lipids and protein in the frog cells before they stop functioning.
- They can stand temperatures between 4 and 26 degrees Celsius.
- They can not be reproduced, but if they’re grown in nutrient-rich cell culture, they can be kept alive for longer.
- These robots can work together.
Applications of xenobot:
Scientists think these xenobots could be useful for:
- Searching out radioactive contamination
- Gathering plastic pollution in the oceans
- Traveling in arteries to scrape out plaque
So what’s the future of these living robots? And Is it scary?
Now to the final question for which I’m writing this blog. And that is “What’s this mean to us and the future of humanity?” And is it scary for us?
(Note: Now these are gonna be my personal opinions. So don’t take these as facts. Feel free to give your opinions in the comment section below. I would love to discuss further on this topic)
Well, in the short term “No it’s not, it’s just one more achievement for science” but in the long term, I can’t say for sure. And here is why…
According to scientists, these xenobots are neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism. And that means we can say it’s the beginning of a new era. An era where machines are gonna be more & more intelligent day by day.
We have been seeing different sci-fi movies for many years. We have watched Terminator, Upgrade, I Robot & many more such movies where robots turn into evil, doing harm to their creators. With xenobots we just proved that it is possible for us humans to create artificial life. Although these xenobots can’t reproduce and evolve, still it’s a machine that has life. And this is just a beginning. So just imagine what the advance version of these kinds of robots will look like. And when I see it’s different possibilities in the future, it makes me equally exciting as well as scared. These kinds of robots will surely help mankind to do impossible things. And that could be treating diseases, in automation, even in space exploration. And these are the positive sides of this but let’s think about negative sides.
Now let’s suppose in the future we make these kinds of artificial living robots that we have been seeing in these sci-fi movies. Now don’t say that it’s never gonna possible. We are currently living in a world with autonomous cars and now these self-healing robots. If you combine AI technology with these man-made organic machines, you will get what we have seen in these sci-fi movies.
The are many problems associated with rise of AI like job-loss and that kind of stuff. But the biggest thing that is scaring me is this: “Humans will no longer be the most intelligent species of this planet”. We rule this planet only cuz of our intelligence. No other species can stop us from doing what we wanna do. You wanna build a home but there are some trees in that area? No problem! just cut down trees. Trees can’t stop us. Do you want meat? Just cut the chicken and eat. Chicken can’t stop us. No one can stop us from doing what we wanna do. Except for Humans. And this is only cuz humans are the most intelligent species of this planet. And sooner we will not be…
Is it already scaring you?? Wait I’m gonna dive deeper into it. Now imagine these AI robots want something. Who will stop them? Trust me! No one can. You know what the scariest part is, we will have no idea about what their desires & thoughts will be. Now you may be thinking if they are so intelligent then why would they hurt anyone? Right? If they can understand the difference between a good and bad act, they will always choose good over bad right?
So now think this way, what’s the definition of doing right? Doing good for everyone. Most of the time what we think good work is only good work for us humans and not the universal good. For example. We kill different animal species and cut down different trees & plants for doing good works like to make medicines that eventually save lives of millions of peoples. Now that that may be a good work for us humans but universally it’s not. Because of our such selfish acts we are killing thousands of innocent species that have life just like us humans do. Many species of this planet already have got extinct because of our selfish acts. Even mobile towers are build in a way that their radiations won’t hurt humans but we neglect how much it will hurt to other species. Many birds species are getting extinct because of that.
What if these super-intelligent AI can see this way & consider good work as a universal good work and the good work that’s limited to humans? Then they will try to do good that is good for everyone and not just for humans. These robots will look at us humans as selfish species of this planet. Cuz trust me we are the most selfish species of this planet. And I think these intelligent robots won’t support us in our selfish goals for long.
So this was my perspective towards future of AI robots. Of course, none of this was any fact. I shared my own opinion on that.
The comment section is open for everyone to discuss further:) What do you think about future of AI, what their thought process will be and will they support us in our goals or will they have their own goals? Plz, let me know in the comment section below.
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Thanks for being with me here:)