New reproducing robots could spawn a cyborg super-race capable of terminating mankind, scientists fear.
Researchers from the UK and the Netherlands have developed radical technology that allows “parent” bots to repeatedly breed with hardly any supervision from mankind.
They say human “breeders” could soon be overseeing the process by creating robot “farms” aimed at producing an army of ever-advancing machines.
But one of the project’s leaders has admitted the droids’ “children” could develop Darwin-style evolutionary capabilities and wreak destruction – just like in the Terminator flicks.
Computing professor Emma Hart said: “Child robots are created by mixing the digital ‘DNA’ from two parent robots on a computer.
“While this technology can operate without a human in the loop, it also allows for collaboration with a human ‘breeder’.
“One might even imagine breeding farms, producing robots adapted to specific conditions and user requirements.
“Furthermore, it is also important to consider the possibility that evolution might result in robots exhibiting malicious or harmful behaviours and put appropriate preventive measures in place… we are now at a breakthrough moment.”
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Prof Hart is part of the the sinister-sounding University of York-based computing project, Autonomous Robot Evolution: Cradle To Grave.
It has spent four years developing the process that allows “mother” and “father” bots to mix their computer “DNA”.
They first form a brain that is then uploaded into a body the “couple” create on a 3D printer, to which they can constantly add improvements such as extra sensors and movement options.
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Prof Hart added: “We have the beginnings of a theoretical framework for a self-sustaining robot population that is able to reproduce itself, and ‘evolve’ without too much input from humans.”
Future generations of robots could include six-legged cyborgs capable of deep sea mining, space exploration and nuclear reactor work.
Nano bots able to conduct life-saving internal surgery on humans may also be spawned, along with the formation of more advanced bodies and organ-like operating systems.
The six-film Terminator film franchise launched in 1984 explored how advanced bots created by humans turned on their masters by wiping most of them out in a nuclear attack.
Sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049 also explored the dangers of robots developing the capability to reproduce.
Leading futurologist Dr Ian Pearson has warned there could be 9.4 billion bots on Earth by 2033 – outnumbering humans.
He’s among experts who fear the danger of a robot takeover is very real and says we are only a few years from them developing “genuine emotions”.
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