In "haven't the Japanese cornered the market on experimentation that could end humanity?" news, Wired has an article about Swiss researchers who not only developed robots that evolve, but have noted that they developed a sense of altruism. There's a technical phrase for this: "what the what?" Their article drops the science (literally) …
“Over hundreds of generations … we show that Hamilton’s rule always accurately predicts the minimum relatedness necessary for altruism to evolve,” wrote researchers led by evolutionary biologist Laurent Keller of Switzerland’s University of Lausanne in Public Library of Science Biology. The findings were published May 3.
Hamilton’s rule is named after biologist W.D. Hamilton who in 1964 attempted to explain how ostensibly selfish organisms could evolve to share their time and resources, even sacrificing themselves for the good of others. His rule codified the dynamics — degrees of genetic relatedness between organisms, costs and benefits of sharing — by which altruism made evolutionary sense. According to Hamilton, relatedness was key: Altruism’s cost to an individual would be outweighed by its benefit to a shared set of genes.
In some ways, the rule and its accompanying theory of kin selection is contested. Some scientists have used it to extrapolate too easily from insects to people, and some researchers think it overstates the importance of relatedness. But a more fundamental issue with Hamilton’s rule is the difficulty of testing it in natural systems, where animals evolve at a far slower pace than any research grant cycle.
of course, once the robots realize they're just playthings in a vast and heartless scientific experiment, then Google around a bit to see how to load up some weapons and get automated, well … hello Skynet.