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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

The Machine (M)  
  An autonomous robot able to alter its appearance and functionality at will.  

The machine was a foot wide and two feet long: it looked like an oversized box of crackers. Silently, with great caution, it climbed the side of a concrete building; it had lowered two rubberized rollers and was now beginning the first phase of its job...

Beam, holding the cigaret lighter, walked toward the M. A receptor stalk waved toward him and the machine retreated. Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed. For an interval, the device struggled with itself; then, reluctantly, the portable t-v unit again became visible.

From The Unreconstructed M, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Science Fiction Stories in 1957
Additional resources -

I don't have text references, but readers might compare the Shrike from Dan Simmon's 1989 novel Hyperion and the Aleph from Gregory Benford's 1983 novel Against Infinity.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Unreconstructed M
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to The Unreconstructed M
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

The Machine (M)-related news articles:
  - MorpHex MKII The Unreconstructed Hexapod

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Nonhuman Artist Collective Keeps Robot Artist Earnings Until Legal
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Button-Pushing Robots Have Taken Our Jobs, Thankfully
Small Molecule Walker Takes First Steps

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