Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Searching for the soul in the machine

18.05.2006


If computers could create a society, what kind of world would they make? Thanks to the work of an ambitious project that adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘computer society’, in which millions of software agents will potentially evolve their own culture, we could be about to find out.



With funding from the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative of the IST programme, five European research institutes are collaborating on the NEW TIES project to create a thoroughly 21st-century brave new world – one populated by randomly generated software beings, capable of developing their own language and culture.

This kind of social interaction is a tantalising prospect for the artificial intelligence (AI) experts, computer scientists, sociologists and linguists working on NEW TIES. The keyword here is ‘social.’ “While individual (or machine) learning and evolutionary behaviour have been quite well studied, social learning is still an unknown quantity,” says project coordinator Gusz Eiben, an AI professor at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.


Joining the Vrije Universiteit are the University of Surrey, Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University, Edinburgh’s Napier University and Tilburg University in The Netherlands. The multidisciplinary team has a dual goal: to study natural processes (like language development), and to advance the construction of collective artificial intelligence.

“For the linguists and sociologists, the main motivation is to study existing processes in societies and languages,” Eiben explains. “The computer scientists on the other hand want to develop and study machine collaboration, with an eye on future applications in robotics. Robots in the home are only five to 10 years away, and in the future we might be able to send robot rescue teams to disaster areas to search for survivors. They could even one day travel to Mars. Obviously, it will be important for them to be able to cooperate with each other – especially if they are in a hostile environment.”

Future disaster victims rescued by robots may perhaps owe their survival to the software agents currently being prepared for life in the NEW TIES engine – which, within a few months, will be running across a Grid of 60 computers. “No one has ever created an engine of this complexity,” says Eiben, adding that it will support about 1,000 agents at first, building up to millions – each one a unique entity with its own characteristics, including gender, life expectancy, fertility, size, and metabolism. The agents will not be labelled, but will have their own distinguishing characteristics to make them recognisable. Their traits will be inherited from their parents, and passed on to their offspring, but they will be able to learn from their own experiences and from each other.

“It’s a given of the NEW TIES project that we are not hardwiring agents,” says Eiben. “We are not programming how they behave. Each entity has its own ‘controller,’ analogous to a brain. And because we want to create an interesting controller, we have to produce a challenging world – otherwise there would be no impetus for development. So, in one scenario, we have created a world with seasons – so that the agents have to learn to find, transport and store food. And there are two rival groups, so they will have to learn to tell friend from foe.”

The agents will have the ability to communicate, using a ‘native vocabulary’ of a few simple words like, ‘food’, ‘near’, and ‘agent’. “One interesting question is how they will communicate,” says Eiben. “Naturally, the linguists want to see how they develop a spoken language, but for the AI researchers we will also test to see if there are possible alternatives – telepathy, for example.”

Currently, NEW TIES is on the brink between development - now pretty much complete - and scientific experiment, which can begin once calibration is completed. “We are ready to start the interaction,” says Eiben, adding that the team hopes to scale up to 5,000 computers, and a vast population of agents, because “then we’ll really see some emergent behaviours.”

By the time it has run its course in August 2007, NEW TIES will have provided food for thought in several fields, and perhaps taken us a step closer to the days Eiben anticipates, when politicians will be able to run simulations on computers to test scenarios (for new tax laws, for example) before carrying them out in real life. “Simulators now allow us to optimise car engines or train timetables,” says Eiben. “But why shouldn’t they help us optimise social decision-making?”

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.europa.eu/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/81933
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht The TU Ilmenau develops tomorrow’s chip technology today
27.04.2017 | Technische Universität Ilmenau

nachricht Five developments for improved data exploitation
19.04.2017 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>