As New Scientist Tech points out, it will soon be possible to "evolve" colonies of robots that are able to think, act and even pass on their robotic DNA to future generations:
"Robots that artificially evolve ways to communicate with one another have been demonstrated by Swiss researchers. The experiments suggest that simulated evolution could be a useful tool for those designing of swarms of robots. Roboticists Dario Floreano, Sara Mitri, and Stéphane Magnenat at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne collaborated with biologist Laurent Keller from the University of Lausanne.
They first evolved colonies of robots in software then tested different strategies on real bots. Both simulated and real robots were set loose in an arena containing two types of objects – one classified as "food" and another designated "poison" – both lit up red. Each bot had a built-in attraction to food and aversion to poison. They also have a randomly-generated set of parameters, dubbed "genomes" that define the way they move, process sensory information, and how they flash their own blue lights... Their "genomes" were combined and randomized in a way designed to mimic mating and mutation and used this to create the next generation robot."
With a nod to Charles Darwin, the Swiss researchers are calling the process by which "smart" robots live and "dumb" robots die "unnatural selection."