Ragged Clown

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Evolution of Cooperation

A couple of years ago, I set out to do an experiment very similar to this one.

The scientists then put the robots in a little arena with two glowing red disks. One disk they called the food source. The other was the poison source. The only difference between them was that food source sat on top of a gray piece of paper, and the poison source sat on top of black paper. A robot could tell the difference between the two only once it was close enough to a source to use its infrared sensor to see the paper color.

Then the scientists allowed the robots to evolve. The robots–a thousand of them in each trial of the experiment–started out with neural networks that were wired at random. They were placed in groups of ten in arenas with poison and food, and they all wandered in a haze. If a robot happened to reach the food and detected the gray paper, the scientists awarded it a point. If it ended up by the poison source, it lost a point. The scientists observed each robot over the course of ten minutes and added up all their points during that time.

Never finished it, sadly. One day I will.
Be sure to watch the cool video of the cooperating robots.

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3 responses to Evolution of Cooperation

Aaron Rhodes February 26, 2007

I am actually not getting the point of the experiment. The +1 / -1 point thing seems not a requirement to reach the outcome viewed on the video. If the peramiters of the robots were simply “keep randomly looking until you find food, then stop” you would have the same thing. Was there communication between the robots somehow? Anyway, it does *look* nice.

Kevin February 26, 2007

There was communication between the robots and different populations evolved different communication strategies.

In one population, Robots would signal “here is food, come join me”. In another population, they would signal “here is poison, stay away”.

The populations that evolved communication were much more efficient at finding food than those that did not.

Another finding was that robots cooperated more efficiently with robots to which they were more closely related.

The coolest bit for me was seeing, in the video, how efficiently the robots navigated around their friend to get to the food when summoned.

Aaron Rhodes February 26, 2007

I won’t be satisfied until someone does a similar experiment but foolishly equips the robots with super-human strength and potentially lethal extremities during a lightning storm.

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