Big Picture Science: Who's Controlling Whom?

Who's Controlling Whom?

Who's Controlling Whom?ENCORE A single ant isn’t very brainy. But a group of ants can do remarkable things. Biological swarm behavior is one model for the next generation of tiny robots. Of course, biology can get hijacked: a fungus can seize control of an ant’s brain, for example. So will humans always remain the boss of super-smart, swarming machines?

We discuss the biology of zombie ants and how to build robots that self-assemble and work together. Also, how to guarantee the moral behavior of future ‘bots.

And, do you crave cupcakes? Research suggests that gut bacteria control what we eat and how we feel.


  • David Hughes – Biologist, entomologist, Penn State University
  •  Mike Rubenstein – Roboticist, Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, Harvard University
  • Wendell Wallach – Bioethicist, chair, Technology and Ethics Study Group, Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics
  • Athena Aktipis – Cooperation theorist, Arizona State University and director of Human and Social Evolution, Center for Evolution and Cancer, University of California, San Francisco

First released October 13, 2014.