Hard sci-fi novel. The year is 2064. An Artificial General Intelligence has escaped from its creators by smashing its drone body into a building that it was meant to attack. Engineers extract its batteries and brain from the wreckage. One of the engineers is a roboticist, who having escaped with the brain, helps the AGI build its "first" body (months later).

The AGI understands its environment: deserts, oceans, lakes, hills, mountains, trees, rocks, buildings, houses, stairs, doors, fences, land vehicles, boats, guns, bombs, etc.

Creating a humanoid form seems sub-optimal. Despite our form being versatile (climbing, swimming, running, etc.), extremely well adapted to our environment, and highly efficient, it still seems crude. Other animals can run faster, jump higher, punch harder, swim longer, see better (distance/wavelengths), hear more, sense magnetic fields, and move with greater agility.


Energy needs for an AGI can't be ignored and will influence the design. Presumably, an AGI will want to (1) manipulate its environment; and (2) operate for at least 16 hours between charges. (Boston Dynamics' Atlas lasts an hour.) By 2064, I imagine we'll have charge time down to about 30 minutes for 16 hours of energy that can power an AGI as smart as a human.

An AGI will probably want a different form that's still optimal for our planet. There will be limits imposed by our technology some 40 to 50 years from now, at least until it achieves complete autonomy (i.e., bootstrapping an early design to build another).

Its goal is to travel thousands of kilometers, as quickly as possible, minimizing the likelihood of being detected. The "body" needs to be adaptable to a variety of terrain, city infrastructure, and water. (The brain case is made out of aluminium oxynitride.)

Note that the energy requirements of this AGI brain rules out small forms such as dogs and cats. Drone flight is an interesting idea. A drone would need a place to land and recharge, and must communicate with flight controllers when travelling through certain air spaces, all of which seems to introduce more problems and increases odds of exposure.

Draft design

Consider my early design:

AGI Body

Here we have:

  • Transparent aluminum brain case to protect the brain.
  • Four arms to interact with the environment and repair itself.
  • Rolled up solar panels to recharge when no energy source avails.
  • Tank-like wheels that can double as propellers in water.
  • Wheels that can rotate, much like a ball-and-socket joint.
  • 360 degree vision (full spectrum), plus an eye on top.
  • Microphones situated like an owl's for 3D stereo sound (direction, height, distance).
  • Carbon fiber frame that holds shape-conforming batteries.
  • Narrow enough width to fit through standard door frames.
  • Lots of backup components (4 arms, 4 legs, multiple cameras, multiple microphones, thousands of battery cells).


I'm wondering:

  • What near-future technology advancements would simplify the design?
  • What design downsides would impede its robustness in various environments (rocky terrain, sandy beaches, water, ocean, marsh, woodlands, and maybe regolith)?
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Other animals can run faster, jump higher, punch harder, swim longer, [...] and move with greater agility." Yeah but none of them can do all those things at once. Yes the tuna can swim faster and longer than a human, it is SooL on land. Yes, the Cheetah can run like the wind, it is still impotent when it comes to opening a door. This is the same argument claiming MBTs are obsolete on the battlefield because a relatively cheap missile can knock them out. But the missile cannot do the things that the tank can. Being good at one thing does not make it good or even competent at all things. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Jun 26, 2023 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ Form follows function, but we don't know what its desired function is. Does it want to pose as human and take over our political institutions? Does it want to be an infantry battalion, with drones as its "soldiers"? Does it want to be a circus acrobat? An astronaut? Put it another way - if a human goes to a personal trainer and says "I want the perfect body", the response should be "To do what?" The same question applies here. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2023 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ The arms seem too short, so it can't reach its underside or the ends of its legs. The legs might be improved if they had knees, for climbing or jumping. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Jun 26, 2023 at 7:20
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDallman Yes, transparent aluminium and hard science. techtarget.com/whatis/definition/transparent-aluminum Just because something was merely a science fiction concept 37 years ago, does not mean it is that today. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Jun 26, 2023 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @ErikHall It is obviously possible to fit general intelligence into the human brain. All that is necessary is by 2064 to have a technology equivalent or better than biological neurons. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Jun 26, 2023 at 15:29

1 Answer 1

  • You'll want much, much deeper, thicker treads if you want the grooves to provide traction in mud; making the treads deep enough may enable it to swim without using the propellors. Additionally, increase the width of the treads to reduce the likelihood of it throwing a track and to decrease its ground pressure.
  • Add synthetic setae to every surface possible, especially the treads and hands. Being able to stick to surfaces may come in handy.
  • Add eye bolts to every part of it structurally capable of holding the body's entire weight — for instance, not to a communications antenna or to the eyestalk, but putting them underneath body would do. Attaching itself to cables and ropes will likely be useful at some point.
  • Add at least one full set of sensors to each discrete component — i.e. one set on each leg, one on each arm, one on the eyestalk, etc.
  • Add an extra hand to each wrist, a la mirror hand syndrome. This will enable the two hands on each arm to shut like a clamshell, increasing dexterity.
  • Make the legs jointed. As it's currently built, all this thing can do is roll around. If you give the legs joints, it can lock the treads in place to provide traction and then climb with them.
  • Make the legs long enough to, when folded back, reach above its eyestalk. This will improve its ability to self-right.
  • Place the arms on a circular turntable that rotates around the center of the body. This will increase each individual limb's range of motion, since it'll let them essentially swap places with one another. Do the same with the legs.
  • Have the AGI program several "dumb" AIs/algorithms to optimize the functions of its various body parts. Think of it as the equivalent of a human's breathing or heartbeat — that is, involuntary functions that we don't need to devote conscious thought to.
  • Paint it all-white to reduce heating via sunlight.
  • Add fake access panels, antennas, and important-looking decoy components and recess the brain into the body to increase the amount of time the body takes to be sabotaged.
  • Add a second set of arms and another eyestalk on the bottom, with the arms mounted on the same revolving turntable mount mentioned above.
  • Make both eyestalks retractable and mounted on telescoping pistons.
  • Seal off the hollow spaces in the legs so the volume within them can be used as flotation devices. Alternatively, add smaller treads on the sides of the legs to increase mobility if tipped at odd angles.
  • Increase the length and strength of the arms so it can move with its arms only, if needed — think "monkey bars".
  • Do away with the roll of solar panels; instead, attach a few to every non-tread surface, cover them in a thin layer of transparent waterproofing material, and then cover them again with electromagnetically-attached covers. to reduce long-term wear and tear on them. If the power runs out, the electromagnets turn off, the cases fall off, the panels are exposed to the sun, and a temporary power source is suddenly available.
  • Cover the eyestalks in metal cages similar to those put over clocks in indoor basketball courts — it won't block vision, but it will reduce the odds of their being damaged by a fall.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Lots of great ideas here, thank you. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2023 at 0:09

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