Artificial Intelligence Appears Low Down On The Evolutionary Tree
AI Plankton Bots, like Cube Sats, Are Swarming In An Ocean Pasture Near You
Working Their Robotic Hearts Out To Save The World
Researchers from the Scripps Ocean in San Diego are deploying swarms of AI robots in the wild to begin to take mastery of the seven seas. The swarm of small plankton-like robots ‘plankton bots’ are being developed to swarm with and study the most abundant life form on this blue planet, and we can only hope this is so and no more sinister plan is afoot or should I say afloat.
Like ‘cube sats’, the tiny satellites now becoming popular in space, each AI Plankton Bot is about the size of a 2 liter bottle of vodka and behaves like plankton drifting with prevailing currents but able to sink and rise at will from jet black abysmal depths to the sunny surface. Each robot carries a raft of sensors for monitoring temperature, depth, CO2, salinity, and its real life plankton cousins. Powered by a ‘buoyancy engine’ a piston-like device that changes its density giving the robot the ability to sink and rise in the water or maintain a constant depth.
One question AI Plankton Bots will be able to help unravel is the mysteries of how plankton manage to form and behave as large interacting assemblages underwater that behave with a swarm intelligence. It is well-known that plankton don’t merely drift, they respond and react to their environment in complex ways that might just infer a swarm intelligence.
Each night for example in ocean pastures far out to sea the phytoplankton on the surface is beset upon by zooplankton that rise out of the dark abyss to graze in the relative safety of the dark of night. This nightly migration is widely known as ‘the greatest migration on earth‘ as it contains herds of different zooplankton far more diverse and in infinitely larger biomass than the migrations of the great herds of wildlife on the African savannahs.
Clearly the nightly migration is governed by darkness as it is curtailed when the moon is full and there are few clouds and maximized during the darkest of nights. By dawns early light the multitudes are sinking and swimming back down to the darkness and safety with bellies full and bulging with phytoplankton. During the day those fattened ‘zooplanktor cows’ rest on the deep thermocline the boundary layer of dense water that separates the productive and daily mixing upper ocean from the deep layer where mixing takes place but on a time scale of centuries not hours.
The ‘cow pies’ produced each day by the ‘zooplanktor cows’ sink immediately into the centennial storage taking with them massive amounts of atmospheric carbon captured by the sun-loving phytoplankton. This is the largest and most powerful engine that maintains our planet’s climate carbon balance dwarfing any conceivable efforts of the puny efforts of humankind.
Mesh Network Intelligence
Building the perfect ‘plankton bot’ has been no simple feat, according to Jaffe who heads the research project. Keeping track of the individual bots and swarm requires very accurate location tracking, and while GPS works wonders when the bots surface and call home, GPS doesn’t work underwater. With assistance from Qualcomm, the team was able to design an acoustic tracking system to keep tabs on the robots. The first 5-hour test was undertaken recently with 16 Plankton Bots programmed to maintain a depth of 10-meters. Sure enough, the robots ended up revealing that they naturally clustered together in the warm density uniform waters of internal wave troughs.
This is exciting news as it coincides with observations of natural plankton that seem able to navigate in the ocean much like hot air balloonists navigate in the skies, chasing and rising to specific altitudes where layers of air are moving in different directions. By doing so plankton is able to not merely drift aimlessly rather they can drift with the intention to be where they need to be.
Using their collective intelligence plankton may be tiny but their mesh network intellectual capacity that is immersed in a friendly and conductive saline environment, much like human saline cellular fluids, far exceeds anything on Earth.
Others have been at work developing and deploying Plankton Bots for some years such as my own deployments of several varieties of ‘ocean bots’ during my 2012 ocean plankton pasture restoration project which started out being 10,000 sq. km in size but grew to nearly 50,000 sq. km over months of growth. My two state of the art Slocum Gliders were more like ‘fish bots’ than ‘plankton bots’ as they had fin-like wings and a rudder which allowed them to follow a programmed course.
Every two hours for weeks on end the Slocum Gilder Bots dutifully dove from the surface to the abyss while using their downward and upward glide making a few kilometers of distance over ground all the while collecting a massive trove of data from their instrument payloads. Upon surfacing every two hours they lingered on the surface just long enough to call home via their onboard satellite phone and ping my IPad reporting on what they had ‘seen’ and asking for any change in their programmed course and data gathering plan.
NASA had also come along on my ocean pasture Voyage of Recovery by providing 20 of their ‘Argos Drifter Bots’ which we deployed in the largest single deployment of such ‘ocean bots’ in a single project area. The ‘drifter bots’, the size of basketballs were anchored in the ocean by small parachute sea-anchors and drifted where-ever the currents took them. They maintained a constant data-link via their own dedicated satellites in orbits reporting on their location and ocean characteristics some of which survived for nearly a year.
As For How That Voyage of Recovery Worked Out
As my ocean plankton pasture in the Gulf of Alaska was returned to historic condition of health and abundance (watched over all the while by my swarm of AI Ocean Bots) all of ocean life returned.
The very next year the catch of Pink Salmon was expected to be a big catch of some 50 million fish, instead 226 million Pink salmon were caught in the largest catch in all of history. Even more salmon and other ocean fish and wildlife thrived living in the restored Garden of Eden that their ocean pasture had become. Right on schedule with mother Orca whales being incredibly well nourished, we call that maternal nutrition, there was the largest baby boom of new Orca whales born.
Sadly the ocean pastures need continuing stewardship and care to sustain their healthy nature and we were unable to follow our planned year and year plan to be that loving ocean pasture steward. This year the baby Orca’s and their parents are being found starved to death in record numbers.
Soon however with a massive new swarm of Plankton Bots the ocean pastures will once again come under our care and be replenished and restored to historic health and abundance. Join me, lend a hand, help bring back the fish and all of ocean life. ‘AI Plankton Bot’ builders are needed!