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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Mechanical Cobra  
  An assassination device; senses brain waves to find its victim.  

The vengeful "deities" of Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light were able to find and punish unbelievers and dissenters with a mechanical device that used electroencephalogram readings to find its victim

...he's dreamed up some other little jewels, too, to serve the will of the gods ... like a mechanical cobra capable of registering encephalogram readings from a mile away, when it rears and spreads its fan. It can pick one man out of a crowd, regardless of the body he wears. There is no known antidote for its venom.
Technovelgy from Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
Published by Doubleday in 1967
Additional resources -

The phrase 'regardless of the body he wears' refers to the fact that reincarnation is made possible by imposing a person's known electrical brain impulses on a lifeless body grown for the purpose.

This novel is replete with references to mechanical devices that are not only functional machines, but are also either works of art or conscious imitations of nature. William Gibson also creates technovelgy of this kind; see the talking head from Neuromancer.

Philip K. Dick wrote about a similar idea several years earlier; see the entry for cephalotropic dart from his 1964 novel Lies, Inc..

Compare to the mining worm robot from Love Among the Robots (1946) by Emmett McDowell, the robot snake from Bait for the Tiger (1952) by Lee Chaytor, the robot earthworm from War with the Robots (1962) by Harry Harrison, the digger worm from With Friends Like These (1985) by Connie Willis and the robot snake spy from Mariposa (2009) by Greg Bear.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Lord of Light
  More Ideas and Technology by Roger Zelazny
  Tech news articles related to Lord of Light
  Tech news articles related to works by Roger Zelazny

Mechanical Cobra-related news articles:
  - Snake Robot Roundup!
  - Roboboa Dancing Robot Snake

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