On the Evolution of Robotkind

Dear Readers,

And now for something completely slightly different.

Robot EvolutionFor more amazing video clips, click here

As impressive as the rise of the robot has been, in the spirit of Earth Day, I pose the question: are robots bad for the environment? I am afraid that the answer is currently yes. They combine the toxic chemicals and heavy metals found in computers with the oil and pollution found in automobiles. Even though a few robots are powered by internal combustion engines, most robots draw power from the electrical grid, much of which is still generated by coal and oil.

We should think now about how future robots could be made more environmentally friendly, rather than (as with the automobile) after it’s too late. I suggest that mass-produced robots of the future be made from recycled and recyclable materials, such as steel and aluminum. We shouldn’t use any material that has to be thrown into a landfill at the end of its life, although something that could be thrown into a compost heap— like cork— would be acceptable.

Big batteries are full of nasty chemicals, and are also heavy and take loads of energy to cart around. However, if we rule out internal combustion, what sort of power source is left? Nuclear?

Well, a nuclear-powered humanoid robot wouldn’t need a whole lot of fuel to run— but, no, that would be rather dangerous. Even though it would last for a long time— but no.

That leaves a couple of other options. One option may be to design some sort of food-powered robot. But a better option may be to use a fuel cell to generate power from hydrogen, or more likely, ethanol or alcohol.

There would still be the issue of robot emissions, but as long as the fuel was derived from plants, there shouldn’t be a net increase in greenhouse gases, unless of course, the plants were being converted into ethanol or alcohol faster than they were replenished.

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4 thoughts on “On the Evolution of Robotkind”

  1. Wow, this is a beautifully well developed environmental impact analysis of robots. Because yes, when we start heading in the direction of “Robots and Empire,” and that day cannot come quickly enough for me (when I get one I’m gonna name him Giskard and hope for the best), we definitely want to have thought this through and here you’ve done it! Bravo.

  2. Too bad robots can’t run on things like dead leaves or roadkill or something. Though who wants to pick up roadkill to charge up your robot? Not me.

  3. Perhaps the robots could be programmed to pick up the leaves and roadkill themselves? Oh, but wait, what happens if they learn they can run over animals to create roadkill? :-S

  4. Then we get into a whole discussion about ethics and robots and how much power we want to give them. We should leave those questions to the academics. Unless you are an academic, then I apologize, Erik.
    Fun post. I

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