Harvard University recently developed swarm-intelligent micro-bots that can self-organize and accomplish simple tasks. This is a great illustration of the possibilities of emergent phenomenon.
Harvard researchers developed a system of 1,024 micro-robots that move using vibration and can self-organize to accomplish simple tasks, like forming the shape of a wrench or a star. The swarm system is based on biological systems (like ants!) who display complex behavior by following a handful of simple rules. The feat was considered a breakthrough due to the large number of bots in the swarm. Previous micro-bot swarms were less than 100.
I can’t wait to see how big these colonies can get, and how complex their work will become. Ant colonies can grow up to 1 million in size, so the micro/nano-bots have a ways to go before they catch-up with their biological brethren.