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A.N.A.: Autonomous Non-violent Agent    The American army, in the Iraq war, experimented with remote-controlled soldier robots. When they dreamed up this project, they never imagined that it would bring another robot “to life.” That other robot is called ANA and what was originally designed for war, has been channelled towards work for peace by its creators. Julio Fernandez from La fabrica de las cosas bonitas is the main figure behind this project, but he has supporters and collaborators from different walks of life. Amongst others is the director of the Cultural Computer Group from MIT’s Media Lab and supporter of Freedom Flies, Chris Csikszentmihalyi (see the balde 24.)

ANA is more than just a protesting robot. The objective of the project, apart from actually creating the robot, is to develop a reflect and develop a strategy enabled by ANA’s actions. This project is critical of the manner in which humanity is eroded away by armed conflict and is also critical of how political solutions are eventually swallowed up by hollow mechanics. Since mankind became mankind, it has always come up with the technology to lessen its burdens.Amongst the major inventions by humans are those designed to kill other humans. ANA has been conceived to denounce that and to try and turn things around. It doesn’t take things as far as Theodore Kaczynski (Unabomber). ANA is not against progress, it’s just a “weapon” that can be used to reflect on and debate about where we are heading. It’s a weapon that makes the most of humour while it’s at it. Just imaging ANA standing in front of the armed forces with a pro-peace banner would bring a smile to anybody’s face.

The development behind ANA has brought about several different prototypes. The technicians involved have examined each one carefully and have worked on coming up with whatever improvements are necessary. The ANA project also takes financial viability into account. The idea is to create a robot that can be manufactured and distributed to as many people as possible, not to come up with a robot that will quietly assume its place in a museum somewhere. That’s why the creators want to make ANAs from recycled and low cost materials. The final aim of the project is to make the process openly available to people who can then develop an ANA that meets their requirements and the pass this on to others. ANA is not just a tool for reflection. It’s a project that takes the jump from theory to action. To prove it, ANA will take part in the protests and action against the planned G8 meeting for Hamburg in June. ANA is just a robot, and its taking part could spark off a debate about “dehumanisation”, but it’s already proven that it’s more intelligent than a few of the people taking part in the demostrations.

There are plenty of links to places on the web where you can see how they are getting on with ANA:
www.anaproject.org will introduce you to the project. Another interesting spot to visit is www.lafabricadecosasbonitas.com. On how to make ANA and other interesting things as well as a place to share ideas and information, you can visit www.instructables.com, a web page that deserves a full article for itself.