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Robots & Evolution

Date: 05-14-12
Host: George Noory
Guests: John Long, Brian Sussman

Professor of Biology and Cognitive Science at Vassar College, John Long, discussed his work with robots that have the ability to solve problems on their own, the rapidly growing robotics industry, and evolution. Long explained that, as a biologist, he turned to robotic versions of animals as a way to better learn about their corporeal counterparts. These autonomous biorobots, he said, are equipped with sensors that allow the machine to process information about its environment and then make its own decisions based on that input. Ultimately, the goal of his research is to better understand the "evolutionary pressures" that spawned the development of vertebrae in animals. More on Long's groundbreaking work with autonomous robots can be found in this gallery and video clip.

On the subject of evolution, Long noted that humans have difficulty understanding the process because we are hampered by a condition known as "change blindness." This phenomenon, he said, hinders people from seeing "slowly moving changes to our world." Despite that, Long stressed that the evolution of humans remains an ongoing process, as we face competition for resources, changes in our environment, and genetic anomalies. Looking to the future, he theorized that, over the course of the next two million years, humans will be faced with a situation where population growth is constrained, which will cause our evolution to become accelerated. Although the current evolutionary arc sees humans getting bigger, Long suggested that this trend may reverse itself should resources become scarce.

Regarding the burgeoning robotics field, Long marveled that "we're really in the new robot revolution. We're living it right now and robots are impacting practically everything we do." This surge, he said, is fueled by the military developing robotic weapons, private companies creating robots for both industries as well as the home, and strong encouragement by the government, who foresee the potential for new manufacturing jobs. While they continue to get more sophisticated and advanced, Long dispelled the popular futuristic notion of robots that carry out a multitude of tasks. On the contrary, he explained that it is more likely that individual jobs will be "parsed out" to specific, focused robots.

The Green Movement

In the first hour, meteorologist and talk show host, Brian Sussman, talked about how there may be a nefarious agenda behind the Green Movement. He revealed that the first "climate scare" can be traced back to 1883, when noted communists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argued that capitalism's pollution caused problems for the environment which could lead to an ice age. According to Sussman, this theme has continued to the present day as "people who are not fond of liberty are constantly hijacking the environmental movement to put forward this global agenda which doesn't have to do with clean air and clean water." Sussman also warned about the spread of smart meters and contended that the ultimate plan behind the devices is to allow for the government to "monitor your carbon footprint" and exert greater control of the populace.

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John Long Robot Photos

John Long Robot Photos

For his appearance on the 5/14/12 edition of the program, John Long sent us some images of his autonomous robots Madeleine (seen here) and the Tadros. You can check out the complete gallery here.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Monday May 14, 2012

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