Cornell University's Hod Lipson is trying to duplicate the evolution of biological life in mechanical form, with tiny algorithm-equipped robots that can learn and even replicate themselves. Lipson is driven by curiosity but notes the risk. "As much as we are control freaks when it comes to engineering, where this is going toward is loss of control. The more we automate, the more we don’t know what’s going to come out of it," he says.

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