What’s a ‘bot, anyway? (10/2/2010)

(Originally posted on October 2, 2010)

Well, “I know one when I see it“. More helpfully, I’d say that a ‘bot is a widget, gadget, or device that is ‘connected’ to the outside world and can say something about its own state, or respond to commands. Thus, the difference between, say, a nutcracker (a gadget) and an iPod Touch (another gadget) is that the latter can run code and communicate with, say, a web site.

A PC is a ‘bot, but the focus here is on special-purpose or single-purpose smart devices that can run code and communicate to the outside world. Examples include: smart thermostats, your car (in the not-too-distant future), and MER-A and MER-B, much better known Spirit and Opportunity.

Gadgets are much more interesting when they’re connected to each other and, perhaps, to occasionally-controlling computers, perhaps because of Metcalfe’s law, whether in your house, car, or backpack.

The implication of Moore’s law, along with implicit corollaries for energy storage technologies (batteries, capacitors, etc) – is there a law yet in Wikipedia for this?? – is that we’ll be seeing more ‘bots around us, doing more on our behalf, at greater price efficiencies. In some cases, if these things are designed and deployed well, they’ll actually simplify things for their human overlords and may even seem to be performing magic on our behalf. Of course, given that they’re just so much hardware and software designed by those same humans, there’s a fair change they might not actually help things at all, either.

These are the topics I hope to explore a bit in these posts, with a mixture of examples from my own experiences and with any luck some high-level musings about what could be.

(6 October, 2010: updated for spelling)

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