Extropy +20: Waste-Powered Robots
From Scientific American — Check this out! Robots that can digest biological matter, and even human waste. Great potential on long space missions. It’s a seemingly overlooked area of energy extraction for machines in general. Remember how The Matrix machines used solar energy, then switched to biological/heat energy from humans once we blotted out the sky..? That’s right! We are merely quickening our own demise! Isn’t that swell?
“Today’s robots that fly, jump or roll around must refuel or recharge as does any gadget that runs out of energy. Tomorrow’s new generation of self-sustaining robots might keep going nearly forever by grazing on dead insects, rotting plant matter or even human waste. The vision of robots capable of plugging themselves into the natural world of living organisms has begun taking shape in several labs around the world…”
Not only does it have robotic potential, but the fantastical transhumanist mind would surely sense a diamond in the rough here, too; Just image you’ve uploaded your mind, and whether you are cloud-based or personal-server-based you need at least one source of renewable energy, preferably with FEW mechanical parts that can fail… Now we can bet that biological processes will last on Earth for a long time, much longer than human life for sure, and that wind-mills, nuclear plants, and solar panels can and will all fail. What else would you want to rely on but self-moderating power systems such as these..?
“… The first EcoBot (created in 2003) was powered by E. coli bacteria feeding on refined sugar. Then “EcoBot-II” (2005) harnessed sludge microbes to break down dead flies, prawn shells and rotten apples. Finally, “EcoBot-III” (2010) showed how a “digesting” robot could also dump its leftover waste, so that its microbes wouldn’t be poisoned by their own filth and could keep powering the robot. …”
Now whether you’re worried about a robot takeover or alternatively just expect humans to become more robotic to maintain planetary dominance, power generation is going to be a major issue in the future. And it’s likely to move in this direction, simply because of the freedom from the grid (autonomy) and the reduced risk of mechanical failure in power systems (resiliency). These traits are fundamental to future(istic) power systems. The waste-power arms race is on!
( Source: Feb 5, Scientific American )