In particular, one area where life seems to be imitating art is the fledgling field of ‘swarm robotics’, in which scientists are creating teams of robots that can work together toward a single goal — from mending a leak to clearing mines — with minimal or no input from humans.

Much of the research is based on the observed behavior of ‘eusocial’ insects — such as ants, bees and termites — who work collectively on complex tasks without central management or higher order intelligence. …

Recently, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) unveiled ‘M-blocks’ – robots that can assemble themselves into different shapes to perform a range of basic tasks, without input from a human controller.

While M-Blocks may not look particularly inspiring, the way they reshape is the first step toward a future where robots rebuild themselves to solve new problems. An M-Blocks-based robot working underwater might make itself narrow to fit through a deep sea crevasse, or a tiny team of medical robots could spread themselves flat to plug a gap in the human heart — all without having been pre-programmed to do so.