SF’s Forecast of Robot Coup is Happening Now


I’m a robot, not an evil bot.


No, robots themselves are not governing the world as some works of Science Fiction envisioned, but unscrupulous humans are using a variant called a bot to attempt just that. Here’s what they’ve got bots to do posing as humans.

* Buy up all of the tickets to popular entertainment events and resell for millions in profits.

* Create five star reviews for products to entice unsuspecting buyers. (A single vengeful robot master could also destroy a company or product with one star reviews.)

* Distort public opinion by flooding public comment sites of government agencies.

* Spread propaganda using social media. (Twitter admits to estimates of 27 million fake accounts. Facebook concedes it was essentially hacked during the 2016 elections. Junk news was shared as widely as professional news in Michigan according to an Oxford researcher1 , who also studied the Brexit vote and the French election.)

It is one thing to interfere with commerce, but democracy depends on voters having factual information. Otherwise we will be governed not by robots but by worse, the evil among us. Tim Wu, who authored the article for this blog, suggests we are not far from the following.

* Campaign limit spending by individuals thwarted by using bots to make contributions.

* Voting bots as the ultimate destruction of democracy.

So what’s being done or what should we do? The Captchas we have to fill out to prove we are not a robot are becoming more prevalent. Despite their annoyance— wish they were more legible—they or something similar needs to be more widely employed. Perhaps social media sites should be legally required to employ means to guarantee their members are human. It should also be illegal to use any program that hides its real identity.

If we don’t do something the disastrous results predicted by Science Fiction will get worse.

  1. Philip Howard, runs the Oxford Computational Propaganda Research Project

Source: http://nyti.ms/2tNMAPl

Post Publication: Hackers at a cybersecurity convention were able to break into every voting machine used in recent US elections and manipulate the software to register fake ballots and change vote tallies.See NYTimesArticle. 

RoboBees are all the Buzz!


The RoboBee is the size of an insect, and it flies like one. Scientists and engineers intent on developing a tiny flying self-directed robot looked to the bee for inspiration. Another unlikely source is children’s pop-up books as the individual RoboBee begins with its parts in a plane. Currently, the tethered RoboBees weigh less than four thousandths of an ounce. The goal is to have the power source be self-contained, but due to the size limit the power would last less than a half hour. Extending the flying time is critical for the intended applications.

The RoboBee was designed for

  • Search and rescue missions, particularly after disasters like earthquakes
  • Surveillance
  • High-resolution weather and climate mapping
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Crop pollination as a stop-gap measure until we can prevent bee colonies from dying. This is said to be up to 20 years off, and at a prohibitive cost for the number of RoboBees required.

Recently RoboBee scientists have found a way to extend flight time by engineering the Bees to rest by perching on leaves or other stationary objects while they survey an area. They perch or stick via electrostatic charge.

Moritz A. Graule, a doctoral student at M.I.T., worked on the perching problem under Robert J. Wood at Harvard, the leader of the team that developed the RoboBee. Dr. Wood and other scientists reported that adding a bit of foam as well as the electrostatic patch saved computing power as the landing need not be so accurately calculated.

Further, the RoboBees are intended to behave like a colony, namely coordinating behavior to accomplish goals. The questions of how bees communicate and make decisions are being studied for relevance to the project.

The research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The research team includes scientists from the fields of biology, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. The team believes that “crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries facilitates new discovery.” The team is exploring fundamental questions in materials science, fluid mechanics, controls, circuit design, manufacturing, and computer science. The efforts to create intelligent behavior with limited power have technological ramifications for the efficiency and design of custom circuits such as those used in cell phones. The pop-up fabrication technique is being used to design new medical devices for minimally invasive surgery.

Best of all, RoboBee demonstrations have excited school children about science.

Adapted from:






          Human Beings Plan to Invade Alpha Centauri with a Fleet of 1000 Robots

By Eloise Hamann

The invasion will not be hostile. The smart phone sized robots only plan to look around and beam pictures back to earth. It will not take the tens of thousands of years, which an ordinary space probe would take. Thanks to assistance from well-focused laser beams, the trip will last less than a single generation of human life.

The small probes will be attached to sails, which will be boosted by laser beams emanating from earth. While the design of the mini-probes is not finalized, a simulation by Stephen Hawking, one of the directors, and Yuri Milner, Russian philanthropist and Internet Entrepreneur seeking funds for the 5-10 billion project, displays the tiny probes at the center of a square sail which looks like an X in a Tic-Tac-Toe square. It is possible to fit the entire probe with computers, cameras and electrical power, in a package with a mass of 1/30th of an ounce.

To the question of what makes human beings unique, Dr. Hawking states, “I believe that what makes us unique is transcending our limits.”

Space scientists have long sought means to cross the void more quickly. As far back as 1962, shortly after lasers were invented, Robert Forward, a physicist and science fiction author, suggested they could be used to push sails in space.

Another advantage of the plan is the number of robots. Many of our little spies can bite the space dust without harm to the others beaming information to earth.

As the closest star system to our solar system, Alpha Centauri is a favorite setting for Science Fiction. In particular: Startrek, Lost in Space, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The project will be directed by Pete Worden, a former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. He has a prominent cast of advisers, including the Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb who as chair advisor believes the laser is the most intimidating and expensive of the challenges. It would have to generate 100 gigawatts of power for the two minutes needed to accelerate the butterfly probes to a fifth of the speed of light—about as much energy as it takes to lift off a space shuttle.

To achieve that energy would require an array about a mile across combining thousands of lasers firing in perfect unison.

Dr. Loeb once said “Nature teaches us that its imagination is better than ours.” I think Project Breakthrough Starshot challenges his claim.

By Eloise Hamann


Adapted from Reaching for the Stars, Across 4.37 Light-Years by Dennis Overbye, NYTimes 4/12/16