Robots and Bears and Sensors, oh my!

Dear Dylan,

I was an Eagle Scout; am, an Eagle Scout. In my day, in the little town where I graduated from High School, the Boy Scouts provided a very deep outlet for my wide variety of interests, creative energy and longing for adventure and the outdoors, at least until I discovered girls. I am not sure what form the Scouts will be in when you come of age, but hope it will continue its long tradition so you can have the same experiences that I did.

One of the best things I did in Scouts was to go to Philmont Ranch in New Mexico. Everyone who goes there gets a primer on how to avoid and evade bears and Mountain Lions and the various other flora and fauna that have a reasonable shot at maiming or killing a young scout. After backpacking several days and avoiding one nocturnal mountain lion visit, I woke up one morning near Beau Bien Ranch to find a grizzly bear in our camp about 10 yards from my tent. We just waited him out as he finally made his way to our bear bags, slung impossibly and intelligently out of bear reach between tall trees, and then ambled off for easier targets elsewhere. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to use my bear evading strategies.


I want to pass these on to you, but while putting it together I realized that they bear (pun intended) an easy resemblance to Daniel Wilson’s tips for “Evading attacking robots”. In the post modern age where you will mature you may very well find yourself needing both sets of advice. So I will provide both.


Daniel Wilson was a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University outside of Pittsburgh. I became aware of him and others there pursuing various arcane paths to the future because the aerospace company where I work provides them with research funding. Which means that curious bipeds like me get to occasionally wade through there, wave a badge, and soak up all of that future knowledge goodness.

 Tips for evading attacking robots, or bears…or…robotic bears. 

Here is what Daniel Wilson had to say about the future robot apocalypse and how to evade them when they attack.  I have a book from him called “How to survive a robot uprising”. He also wrote a novel called “Robopocalypse” that is worth the read. Again, where possible, I will note where his advice applies equally well to bear evasion, saving time for both of us.

1. Run downhill over rough terrain

Bears have a hard time maintaining stability at full speed while running down hill. On flat ground, despite their large bulk, they can outrun you. So find a hill and run down (not up) it. Also, robots (of today) have to process and may have difficulty navigating any broken terrain. Be sure to check their means of propulsion first. The robots on tracks and wheels are easily foiled. But we are making them better all the time. Today we have biped and quadroped bots and even bots that can fly short distances. So, know your enemy before you run, if possible.

2. Find cover or clutter

The key to evading robots is knowing how their sensors work. Watch the Schwarzenegger movie “Predator” for tips about IR sensor-based bots. If they are vision based bots the clutter may help you confuse them enough to make your getaway.

This tip probably doesn’t work very well for a marauding bear, unless the cover is of just the right density to permit you, but not the bulk of the bear, to pass.


3. Merge with the pack

This is the same principle as schooling fish. If someone else is present, try to merge your form with them momentarily, then separate quickly and run.

Again, this is about confusing the tracking sensors. This applies equally well to bears and bots. It reminds me of an old Richard Pryor joke (20th century awesome comedian) where the punch line goes something like “Well, which way are you going to run?”


“Because I don’t want to run into you. I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you”


4. Find a body of water

According to Wilson, “Most robots will sink in water or mud and fall through ice.” Note that this will not deter the bots that can fly. Also, bears are quite fond of water and may be able to swim faster than you.  So, spend extra time in swim lessons to give you that extra stroke or two that may make the difference.


5. Serpentine

Never run in a predictable line. It is doubtful that advanced robot targeting systems will be fooled by this. And bears chase stuff all the time, but I still recommend making serpentine a part of your mental repertoire for evading a whole host of possible scenarios. Eight hundred 1980s movies where the hero or heroine evades robots, animals, killer pimps, High School bullies and terrorists can’t be wrong.


6. Run toward the light

Err. this only works on robots with primitive sensors. And I don’t think it will work on bears either, unless the light is attached to a helicopter with a guy leaning out of the door manning an M 60.


7. Find a car

Jumping into a car and getting all appendages safely inside always seems like good advice. Wilson says do this and then reach up and grab the keys from the visor and “burn rubber”, because this may be your only hope for evading a robot who may be able to easily outrun a human. Where bears are concerned I think getting the extremities inside and closing the door should suffice. Make sure the windows are up, though. Then you can make funny faces at the bear and irritate it while you wait for rescue. Still, always check the visor for keys that all too frequently seem to be there.


I have more detailed advice that I will provide you later, once you are capable of abstract thought.


Love, Dad

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