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Half a billion years ago, Earth’s animal life rapidly evolved during the event known as the Cambrian explosion. In the future, growing swarms of robots all talking with one another could spark a similar “Cambrian explosion” for robotic evolution. A robotics expert who has worked for the U.S. military recently published a paper on the technological changes that could rapidly spawn the next generation of robots powered by advanced artificial intelligence. He also weighs the consequences of robots rapidly replacing huge numbers of human workers.


Two technologies could play the biggest roles in rapid robot and AI evolution, according to Gill Pratt, who has served as robotics program manager for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). First, “Cloud Robotics” could allow robots to share experiences and knowledge through wireless connections and the Internet. Second, “Deep Learning” algorithms allow robots to learn from experience and apply those lessons to more general scenarios. Together, they could lead to more capable robots with the AI brains to handle many more jobs currently done by humans, according to Pratt’s paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

“While a Cambrian Explosion in robotics promises to improve the human condition dramatically, it also looms as a disruptive economic force, in part because of its much-discussed potential to make certain human jobs redundant,” Pratt writes. “Yet there is reason to embrace the pending robotics revolution despite such concerns.”

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