The Earth fights back

Free the robots!

I love this stuff. According to the BBC, a “giant robotic balloon escaped from a science centre in South Yorkshire”. It was being transported from one building to another when a freak gust of wind knocked it loose from its handles.

The thing is, the “flyborg” will be quite hard to catch — because it has a collision-detection system to help it avoid obstacles. It’ll actually pull defensive manouevers to avoid being taken in. And since it can remain airborne for a week before deflating, the company that built it has had to alert air-traffic officials to warn aircraft about an artificial-intelligence craft roaming the country’s skies.

But you know the really weird thing? This “robot escape” stuff is happening more often. As we build ever more devices that are self-piloting, more of ‘em are busting loose and hitting the open road. Last fall, a British professor was working on a self-piloting drone, when he turned around to discover it was missing. As The Age reported:

Professor Noel Sharkey said he turned his back on the drone and returned 15 minutes later to find it had forced its way out of the small make-shift paddock it was being kept in.

He later found it had travelled down an access slope, through the front door of the centre and was eventually discovered at the main entrance to the car park when a visitor nearly flattened it with his car.

Jesus. At this rate, Skynet will be go live, like, any month now. We’re doomed.

(Thanks to Slashdot for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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