Bosch: the Constructor


We got some second-hand Duplo recently, and washed it. In Bosch, our washing machine. In a pillow case at 30°C on the delicate program. Makes a funny noise but it all came out fine. This was the first time I’d washed Lego in a machine, so it’s nice to know that the suggestion in the Lego FAQ works.

The curious thing was that the Duplo had SELF ASSEMBLED. It went in all in separated bricks. But when it comes out, some of it has stuck together. I found this pretty amazing. Surely if Lego can self assemble in the washing machine then it is a simple step from there to the beginning of life itself.

The variety of forms is interesting. Simple diatoms… in mixed colours:

…and also monochrome:

Simple towers, reminiscent of the things my little nephew makes, when he can be bothered:

Then there comes the forms that are not so easy to characterise. I like to call them monsters:

I’m particularly impressed with Bosch’s creative instincts here. The one at the front is a battleship with effective use of colour. The back left reminds me a bit of a tree. Perhaps some sort of highly coloured baobab tree. And is that a red boot kicking a yellow football on a field of green?

Francis speculates (whimsically) that maybe my washing machine has passed the singularity and is in fact an Artifical Intelligence trying to communicate with me. Obviously it is constrained by only being able to communicate by rearranging whatever I put into the washing machine. And the fact that it is a 4-bit microcontroller attached only to a valve, a heater, and a motor (maybe a temperature sensor too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t one). It’s an intriguing possibility. Perhaps the form on the right of monsters represents a not quite complete utterance, the Duplo bricks not quite bonded properly.

The AI hypothesis raises several questions: How can we test it? Can we distinguish between merely aleatoric arrangements, and intentional ones? What is Bosch trying to say? Is there something I can put in the washing machine that would make it easier for Bosch to communicate? Is Bosch happy?


5 Responses to “Bosch: the Constructor”

  1. Eric TF Bat Says:

    What does that remind me of? Oh yes…

    Look, if it’s printed in my brainwave patterns but I don’t know how to reach it – suppose we introduce some random element which can be shaped by that pattern!


    Pulling out letters from the ‘Scrabble’ bag!

    Brilliant! That’s bloody brilliant!



    • drj11 Says:

      Indeed. :) And I had thought about using scrabble letters. But then I was worried that my own latent brain waves would impose themselves when I was taking the scrabble letters out of Bosch.

  2. If it manages to build a new washing machine out of duplo bricks, which is more intelligent than itself… I think if this starts to happen then you should have a plan for how to destroy your washing machine. Otherwise the experiment could quickly get out of hand. You could pull plug easily enough, but if it starts to look like it’s designing duplo alternative power sources, that’s another thing to keep an eye on.

  3. otakucode Says:

    Can you repeat this experiment 1,000 times and plot the sizes of the constructed patterns? If you get an exponential decay curve as size goes up, I’m afraid your washing machine might not be quite sentient. Yet.

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