Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chimpanzee culture on Material World

There was a great piece on this afternoon's Material World - an interview with Andrew Whiten about cultural traditions in chimpanzees. Andrew Whiten makes the very interesting observation that while many animals appear to have 'traditions' (i.e. separate groups of the same bird species with different birdsong), chimpanzee have dozens of traditions. Does this mean that chimps have culture? I think so, yes.

Chimp culture appears, however, to have remained relatively static - Whiten observes that archeological investigation has shown traditions to have persisted for hundreds if not thousands of years. Longer, I would suspect, given that anatomically modern chimps have been around for over six million years. In other words, the big bang of human cultural evolution has never happened for chimps. What cognitive deficit in chimps might account for this..?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Artificial Culture web pages now up

Check out our new Artificial Culture project web pages:

These have been built using Google Sites. A remarkably straightforward way to create both the structure and content for a set of web pages, without HTML coding (actually I did have to tweak the code a couple of times). Integration with other Google applications means, for instance, that creating a slide show of images needs you only to upload the images to a Picasa album, then insert the slideshow gadget and point to the Picasa URL. Add another image to the album and it automatically appears in your web site slide show.

There is one limitation: while invited collaborators can sign-in and add comments - in blog fashion - to existing posts (as well as create and edit new pages), ordinary visitors to the web site cannot. Given that blog functionality is clearly built into the sites technology, it ought to be straightforward to provide an option to allow comments to be submitted, to selected pages, by non signed-in visitors. Or a blog gadget. Google..?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Autonomous robots with guns are a bad idea

Check out Noel Sharkey's excellent piece describing the depressingly relentless 'advance' of offensive robots, in today's Daily Telegraph: March of the Killer Robots.

Like Noel I am profoundly worried by the weaponisation of robots.