Saturday, September 6, 2014

Intelligently Designed Robots

Watch this video and marvel at the brilliance of the people who designed and built this robot which can assemble itself and then walk away:
Our sense of wonder is only heightened by the description given by Mariella Moon at Engadget. Or at least it would be if what she says weren't flatly contradictory. She writes:
Folding robots are nothing new, but scientists from Harvard and MIT have taken it to the next level, by designing one that assembles itself and walks away to do its job with zero human input.
How can there be "zero human input" if the thing was designed by scientists?

Anyway, she goes on to say that,
It's far from being perfect, though, and still has a ways to go before anyone can use it for a particular purpose. For instance, the assembly process is triggered by slotting a battery in, but the researchers plan to modify the robot so that it starts folding itself based on environmental cues like changes in pressure or temperature. Also, the mechanical critters could use a different polymer other than polystyrene, one that requires less heat to start folding. At this point in time, the prototypes are prone to bursting into flames, since they use so much energy -- in fact, just the assembly itself depletes a whole AA battery.
It's still amazing, of course, even if it's not perfect, but here's the thing. Structures somewhat similar to this one are found throughout the biological world and they are perfect, or close to it. A beetle can flawlessly fold and unfold its wings in highly complex ways, for example. Isn't it remarkable that we think it requires enormous intelligence and purposeful activity to design and manufacture a foldable robot - which is to biological structures what a paper airplane is to a fighter jet - yet a lot of folks think that the biological structures could have happened purely through the action of random chance and blind physical forces?

If foldable robots can only be created by intelligent designers, isn't it at least plausible to think that infinitely more complex structures also require an intelligent designer? If not, why not?