With the advent of computing, we are fast entering a new era of discovery
and opportunity. In business, market researchers will be able to predict the potential
market share of a new product on-the-fly by synthesizing news reports,
competitor analysis, and large-scale simulations of consumer behavior. In life
and material sciences, specially engineered amorphous computational particles
will be able to perform optimal search, whether they are bio-robot agents
to kill cancer cells inside human bodies or smart paints to spread evenly over
and fill cracks on rugged surfaces. In environmental sciences, surveillance applications
will be able to deploy wireless, mobile sensor networks to monitor
wild vegetation and route the tracking measurements of moving objects back
to home stations efficiently and safely. In robotics, teams of rescue or Mars
exploratory robots will be able to coordinate their manipulation tasks in order
to collectively accomplish their missions, while making the best use of their
capabilities and resources.
All the above examples exhibit a common characteristic, that is, the task
of computing is seamlessly carried out in a variety of physical embodiments.
There is no single multi-purpose or dedicated machine that can manage to
accomplish a job of this nature. The key to success in such applications lies
in a large-scale deployment of computational agents capable of autonomously
making their localized decisions and achieving their collective goals.