The idea of swarms of tiny robots, this size of abacteria or virus, that we can program to attack cancer cells, or clean up toxic waste or even mine minerals with no environmental impact has real power.
Tiny, targeted artifical devices that can do the work we want an a micro or even molecular level have captured the immangination of some, and the efforts of a few aound the world of late.
Now, thanks to researchers at Cornell, the first, rudimenary onces are running around on a silicon chip in the lab (thankfully). They are not the things of sci fi nightmares yet - they just walk around, are not autonomous and are tethered - relying on external power to waddle around.
The Sci fi forums are abuzz with the possiblity of our early, self inflicted, demise as a species, and the reseachers continue to find ways to improve the functionality of the bots -focusong on the positive benefits. Any real practical application is decades away they say - so presumaby the potential downsides are also well out into the future.
Lets see how those timelines work -it was only 60 years from a 12 second flight at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers to putting someone in space, and we can expect bots to grow more in line with Moore's law , a doubling in capacity every 2 years or so.