We've been told time and time again to fear our mechanical friends, so imagine our relief when we heard that some Swiss scientists had a batch of bots that displayed altruism. What's more, these little two-wheeled foragers weren't programmed to share, they evolved the trait. Researchers at EPFL infused Alice microbots with digital "genes" that mutated over time as well as color sensors that allow them to navigate their environment. The robots were tasked with collecting "food" and given the option to keep it for themselves or split it amongst their silicon-brained relatives. The more they decided to give to others with similar genetic makeup the more those virtual genes were passed on to future generations -- including the one for altruism. The experiment is an example of Hamilton's Rule, an evolutionary model for how the seemingly counter-intuitive trait of selflessness could arise through natural selection. Don't let your guard down just yet, though -- the robots are only sharing with each other for now.
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