Lessons to be learned from society of robots

April 23, 2007

An Exeter political philosopher is embarking on an exciting project researching an artificial society of robots. As part of a team of academics from six universities, Robin Durie will be looking at how ‘artificial culture’ emerges within a group of robots.

The team, led by Professor Alan Winfield at the University of the West of England has received funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for the project.

Over the next four years, an artificial society of robots will be created in a lab in Bristol, with around 60 miniature robots organised into groups that are programmed to interact and to imitate each other. The team will manage the conditions under which the robots interact and observe how they behave together. The research will attempt to identify and interpret patterns of behaviour as evidence for an emerging robot culture and to see whether this new understanding may shed some light generally on how culture emerges.

Dr Robin Durie, political philosophy lecturer at the University of Exeter, explains: “In a sense we will be using robots like a microscope to study the evolution of culture. The possibility that genuinely novel, non-human, culture may emerge within the robot lab is both exciting and challenging. How will we be able to be sure that we are really witnessing the emergence of novel cultural behaviours, rather than simply projecting our own human concepts of culture on to the robots?”

He adds: “In the long run, these questions have the potential to cast a new light on some of the great political challenges which confront us today, such as how we relate to people from cultures which appear to be fundamentally different to our own”.

The team are also planning to set up a website so that the artificial culture lab can be observed and interpreted over the internet by anyone from school children to fellow academics and enthusiasts.

The project team is multi-disciplinary and comprises theoretical biologist Professor John W Crawford (University of Abertay Dundee), philosopher Dr Robin Durie (University of Exeter), social scientist Dr Frances Griffiths (University of Warwick), computer scientist Professor Alistair Sutcliffe (University of Manchester), art historian and cultural theorist Dr Jenny Tennant Jackson (Leeds Metropolitan University) and roboticist Professor Alan Winfield (Bristol Robotics Laboratory).

Source: University of Exeter

Explore further: Should androids have the right to have children?

Related Stories

Should androids have the right to have children?

July 28, 2015

In contemporary science fiction, we often see robots passing themselves off as humans. According to a UiS researcher, the genre problematises what it takes to be accepted as a human being and provides a useful contribution ...

UW mapping app turns art into a sharable walking route

May 6, 2015

Creative athletes have been using geographic information systems to transform their running routes into kangaroos, robots and other works of art that they share online, and one romantic cyclist last year even spelled out ...

Research seeks to make robotic 'human patient simulators'

April 8, 2015

A young doctor leans over a patient who has been in a serious car accident and invariably must be experiencing pain. The doctor's trauma team examines the patient's pelvis and rolls her onto her side to check her spine. They ...

Robot revolution will change world of work

March 24, 2015

Robots will fundamentally change the shape of the workforce in the next decade but many industries will still need a human touch, a QUT Future of Work Conference has heard.

Florentine basilica gets high-tech physical

February 26, 2015

Late last year, two University of California, San Diego students set out for Florence, Italy, to diagnose a patient that had no prior medical record, couldn't be poked or prodded in any way, and hadn't been in prime condition ...

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

The couple who Facebooks together, stays together

July 27, 2015

Becoming "Facebook official" is a milestone in modern romance, and new research suggests that activities on the popular social networking site are connected to whether those relationships last.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.