Thursday, April 23, 2009

Artificial Culture in Prague

I'm here at the brilliant European Union conference Science beyond Fiction, and yesterday gave my talk in the session on Collective Robotics: adaptivity, co-evolution, robot societies. I was pretty nervous because (a) this is my first talk on the Artificial Culture project to a international audience of senior researchers and (b) the project is still in its early development stages so we don't yet have any results. However, I'm pleased to say the talk went down well and I had some great questions - followed by conversations late into the evening.

Here is a movie of my presentation slides:

One of the questions was about robot imitation: are the robots learning to imitate, or have we pre-programmed them with imitation? My answer was that we have hand-coded imitation, in other words, our robots are endowed with an imitation instinct. You have to start somewhere, I argued, and this seems a good place to start and will initially allow us to study meme-evolution in our robot society in isolation from robot adaptation. While my questioners agreed, they also suggested that the evolution of imitation would also be really interesting, and encouraged us to - in effect - turn the evolutionary clock a little further back in our robot model of the emergence of culture.

Here are all of my blog posts on this project so far.