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"The answer to the problem of information overload on the Net is reputations… engineer a system called a reputation server."
- Neal Stephenson

Rat-Robot  
  A small remotely-operated surveillance robot.  

As he walked, he could feel the slight motion of the skin-tight, woven elastic suit that he wore rubbing against his skin.

And he could hear the scratching patter of the rats.

Mostly, they stayed away from him, but he could see them hiding in corners and scurrying along the sides of the tunnel. Around him, six rat-like remote-control robots moved with him, shifting their pattern constantly as they patrolled his moving figure.

Far ahead, he knew, other rat robots were stationed, watching and waiting, ready to deactivate the Nipe's detection devices at just the right moment. Behind him, another horde moved forward to turn the devices on again.

It had taken a long time to learn how to shut off those detectors without giving the alarm to the Nipe's instruments.

There were nearly a hundred men in on the operation, operating the robot rats or watching the hidden cameras that spied upon the Nipe. Nearly a hundred. And all of them were safe.

From Anything You Can Do, by Gordon Randall Garrett.
Published by Analog in 1962
Additional resources -

The rat-robots fought real rats like this:

The rat that was not a rat became suddenly motionless, its sharp rodent's nose pointed directly at the enemy. There came a noise, a tiny popping hiss, like that of a very small drop of water striking hot metal. From the left nostril of the not-rat, a tiny glasslike needle snapped out at bullet speed. It struck the advancing rat in the center of the pink tongue that was visible in the open mouth. Then the not-rat scuttled backwards faster than any rat could have moved.

For a second, the real rat hesitated, and it may be that the realization penetrated into its dim brain that rats did not fight this way. Then, as the tiny needle dissolved in its bloodstream, it closed its eyes and collapsed, rolling limply off the rail.

Thanks to All Day SCI-fi for suggesting this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Anything You Can Do
  More Ideas and Technology by Gordon Randall Garrett
  Tech news articles related to Anything You Can Do
  Tech news articles related to works by Gordon Randall Garrett

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