[extropy-chat] Fwd: [EP_group] It's a Bot-Eat-Bot World By Gisela Telis

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Tue Mar 27 22:12:16 UTC 2007

>Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 20:44:58 +0200 (CEST)
>It's a Bot-Eat-Bot World
>By Gisela Telis
>ScienceNOW Daily News
>22 February 2007
>Alliances, deceptions, and even some shoving: It could be reality 
>television, or it could be insect expert Laurent Keller's lab at the 
>University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Keller and his interdisciplinary 
>team of researchers have condensed thousands of years of evolution into a 
>weeklong battle of the bots that demonstrates for the first time how 
>social creatures evolve to communicate--and how, in a pinch, they evolve 
>to deceive as well.
>Experts disagree over exactly when and how communication arose among 
>social animals. Evolutionary biologists suspect that early communication 
>may have developed as a way for closely related individuals to boost each 
>other's chances for survival. Studying such evolution in the lab is 
>practically impossible, however, because most socially sophisticated 
>creatures, such as bees or monkeys, can take hundreds of generations to 
>show substantial behavioral changes.
>Enter the s-bots, robots fated to live, reproduce, and die within 2 
>minutes. Keller and company equipped these 15-centimeter-tall subjects 
>with wheels, a camera, a ground sensor, and a virtual "genome"--a computer 
>program that dictated their responses to their environment. Some of the 
>robots also had blue lights they could turn on or off. The robots then 
>entered a foraging environment consisting of a "food" source and a 
>"poison" source. Robots that found food were "mated" with other successful 
>robots: Their genomes were recombined into new programming for the next 
>generation. Robots that didn't find food, or that found poison, saw their 
>genomes vanish from the game.
>In one set of experiments, robots entered the game as part of a larger 
>colony. When most members of the colony found food, individuals from the 
>entire group stood a good chance of having their genome make it to the 
>next generation. In another set of experiments, it was every bot for itself.
>During the course of 500 generations, or about a week, the robots evolved 
>to use their blue lights to communicate. Some groups flashed them to tell 
>others where the food was; other groups used them to warn of the presence 
>of poison. As the tactic worked and the genomes of successful 
>communicators survived, the robots became more and more efficient at foraging.
>The researchers expected the lone bots to largely ignore each other. But 
>they were surprised, says Sara Mitri, a graduate student involved in the 
>experiment. Bots acting alone developed the same communication strategies, 
>along with some strategies of deception. When surrounded by their kin, the 
>incentive of trying to get their genome--or one similar to theirs--into 
>the next round of the game kept the cooperation going. But when surrounded 
>by "stranger" bots with dissimilar genomes, they flashed their blue lights 
>far from food to sabotage the nonkin bots' chances for survival. "We did 
>not expect that they would evolve such a sophisticated system of 
>communication," says Keller. He says the results--presented online today 
>in Current Biology--confirm that kinship and pressure to succeed as a 
>group help give rise to social behavior, even the unsavory kind.
>"I think this is really, really stunning," says Lee Dugatkin, an 
>evolutionary biologist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Using 
>robots to understand the evolution of communication opens the door to 
>testing more complicated aspects of social behavior, such as reciprocity, 
>he adds. "It has tremendous potential ... to address all sorts of 
>questions that haven't been answered yet."
>Source: Science
>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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