Imagine swarms of small robots, working together autonomously, forming ad hoc groups to accomplish tasks too big or complex for a single bot. That's precisely what some Swiss scientists recently achieved after programming a group of robots to mimic the evolutionary process found in biological colonies of insects such as ants or bees.
Roboticists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne collaborated with biologists from the nearby University of Lausanne to demonstrate that robots can spontaneously evolve ways to communicate and interact to accomplish a joint goal. In the demonstration, a group of bots were programmed with an attraction to objects they identified as "food" and an aversion to objects designated as "poison." The objects were clearly visible to the robots from a distance of several meters, but could not be identified until the robot approached within inches of the object.The robots, which were equipped with colored lights for signaling each other, were programmed with random sets of behaviors, dubbed "genomes" by the scientists. The genomes defined how each robot would process sensory information, and how it would move and operate its flashing lights. The robots were then subjected to a process simulating evolution, in which the genomes of successful robots were recombined and replicated, while genomes of robots that did not perform well were phased out.
After 500 generations of the synthesized "natural selection" process, the robots began to exhibit swarm behaviors, such as alerting each other when they located food or poison. By changing the parameters for success -- giving a lower priority to accomplishing group tasks, for example -- the scientists also observed mutations that included misleading or antisocial behaviors, such as intentionally luring other robots away from food.
The scientists have postulated that the methods they are developing to evolve robot behaviors will be simpler and less time-consuming than programming a bot's every move, eventually producing more sophisticated behaviors than are currently possible through traditional programming methods. The robots used in the project were initially developed for the European Commission-funded Swarm-Bots Project, which conducted experiments involving small robots that worked together to move large objects and navigate difficult terrain.
quote: the scientists also observed mutations that included misleading or antisocial behaviors, such as intentionally luring other robots away from food.
quote: By your scenario, a mutation would result in an ant that didn't defend the colony and/or feed the queen, and its greater genetic fitness would destroy the group. This doesn't happen...and the reasons why are deeply embedded in mathematical biology.
quote: Group selection can and does exist. The selection unit is still the gene...but the selected trait affects the group...sometimes to the detriment of the individual.
quote: This concerns me a great deal, this was a very low level experiment and already we are seeing such behaviours.
quote: This was not real AI, it was a simulation with predetermined guidelines.
quote: the bad behaviors where caused by reprioritizing different actions. basicly, they told the bots "ok, now survival of the group is less important then survival of the individual".
quote: only we can evolve bots a lot faster then we humans did.
quote: As long as we have control of the electicity and batteries we should be okay.
quote: First, no matter how intelligent robots may ever seem, it is and will always be artificial intelligence. It is the work of SMARTER beings, us. We programemd them to evolve in the way that they did.