Bio-mimicking MAV (micro aerial vehicles) are nothing new. (Been blogging about them almost as long as I’ve been blogging.) But, if you’re new to this, these are drones, that is, flying robots, that look and act like natural creatures. Insects, birds, whathaveyou.
From their press release:
To improve the next generation of insect-size flying machines, Johns Hopkins engineers have been aiming high-speed video cameras at some of the prettiest bugs on the planet. By figuring out how butterflies flutter among flowers with amazing grace and agility, the researchers hope to help small airborne robots mimic these maneuvers.U.S. defense agencies, which have funded this research, are supporting the development of bug-size flyers to carry out reconnaissance, search-and-rescue and environmental monitoring missions without risking human lives. These devices are commonly called micro aerial vehicles or MAVs.
“For military missions in particular, these MAVs must be able to fly successfully through complex urban environments, where there can be tight spaces and turbulent gusts of wind,” said Tiras Lin, a Whiting School of Engineeringundergraduate who has been conducting the high-speed video research. “These flying robots will need to be able to turn quickly. But one area in which MAVs are lacking is maneuverability.”
To address that shortcoming, Lin has been studying butterflies. “Flying insects are capable of performing a dazzling variety of flight maneuvers,” he said. “In designing MAVs, we can learn a lot from flying insects.”
From my thoughts:
This recent research is part of the most dangerous and, possibly, most rewarding project that humans have ever embarked upon. Nature is being weaponized from two directions.
One is animals and plants that will (and, in some cases, already do, see cyborg insects) operate under human control and the other is robots that look exactly like plants and animals.
The paranoia of people living in conditions where every creature could be working for the military terrifies me. It will result in an even more abnormal and psychotic relationship with the world and each other than we already have. I remain unconvinced that humanity can survive what we already have. I do not have any hope for a society that employs these tools.
Other than this: These technologies represent a sort of ubiquitous domestication. Its’ possible that humanity and intelligence may be distributed through every aspect of the planet so that there is no difference between us and a tree and a hummingbird.
As Karl Shroeder has ably pointed out on his blog, this sort of thing, may well be a sensible resolution to the Fermi Paradox. (“The apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations.”)
And while the belief that the paradox is answered with “any form of sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature” another possible answer is that no species can survive its own intelligence. That, as a species grows smarter, it grows more deadly.
Until it kills itself off.
We have evidence to support that intelligence is related to danger. We have absolutely none to support the idea that another species has survived its own brilliance.
I’m neither pessimistic nor optimistic about this.
I do believe that we need to realistically assess our problems and acknowledge that the continued existence of humanity, in even the best circumstances, is a highly unlikely outcome.
Inventing more weapons is not the best circumstances.
Inventing weapons that will only make us more paranoid and drive us further from nature is to put a bullet into our brains.
I hope for the best. I do so against my better judgement.