Sheepdogs and Robots: Sheep Thrillz
THEM'S THE RULESAugust 03, 2021x
00:43:5730.22 MB

Sheepdogs and Robots: Sheep Thrillz

Hosted by Bronwen Clark
Hosted by Bronwen Clark

How will sheepdogs save the world?

In the episode, Bronwen explores the pastoral pastime of sheepdog trials (think Babe) and inadvertently stumbles into the complicated world of "swarm robotics." 

Long been baffled by the sheepdog’s amazing ability to herd large flocks of unwilling sheep, scientists have finally discovered the "two rules" the sheepdog follows in this impressive, and age-old, practice of shepherding. Engineers, biologists, and physicists are now utilizing a model of this behavior to create very complex systems of organized robots. 

But, don’t worry---these robots aren’t being designed to replace the dynamic duo of dog and shepherd; instead, researchers expect them to play a much larger and more significant role in society! 

Super cool, or super scary? #robotuprising

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The ancient roots of shepherding, and why the practice still continues today.
  • What type of dog makes the best sheepdog.
  • Why the sheep flock together. 
  • Where in Ireland a tourist can go to see a sheepdog trials demonstration.
  • What the basic skills of a sheepdog are, and why they aren’t so “basic.” 
  • What makes the Border Collie so unique and effective in herding sheep.
  • Why science wants to replicate the relationships between sheepdog and shepherd, and how they have failed to do so.
  • What the differences between sheepdogs and cattle dogs are, and why it matters.
  • A groundbreaking study that finally identified the two behavioral rules the sheepdog follows. 
  • What those two deceptively simple rules are. 
  • What movement rules the sheep follow, and why neurobiologists are excited. 
  • What an algorithm is. 
  • What “selfish herd theory” is, and how it is relevant to human populations. 
  • The impressive intelligence of the average sheep. 
  • What a biological swarm is, and how engineers are using this to program robots.
  • How the shepherding algorithm will be used to address the major problems facing us today. 
  • What rules are set by the International Sheep Dog Society, and how they are ready-made for translation to artificial intelligence.
  • Why human stampedes are one of Bronwen’s top three scariest ways to die.


Solving the shepherding problem: heuristics for herding autonomous, interacting agents


Show’s Website

Aerial views of sheepherding