Lessons to be learned from society of robots

Apr 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: Best of Last Week–Can space travel faster than light, another planet behind the Sun and should we allow head transplants

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Florentine basilica gets high-tech physical

Feb 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 ...

Economic games don't show altruism

Jan 16, 2015

Economic 'games' routinely used in the lab to probe people's preferences and thoughts find that humans are uniquely altruistic, sacrificing money to benefit strangers. A new study published in the journal ...

Scientist tackles mystery of ancient astronomical device

Jan 06, 2015

The shoebox-size chunk of bronze didn't attract much attention when divers retrieved it from an ancient shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901. Archaeologists on the expedition had their hands ...

Beyond human: Exploring transhumanism

Nov 25, 2014

What do pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, Iron Man and flu vaccines all have in common? They are examples of an old idea that's been gaining in significance in the last several decades: transhumanism. The word ...

Recommended for you

Bribery 'hits 1.6 billion people a year'

Feb 27, 2015

A total of 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly a quarter of the global population – are forced to pay bribes to gain access to everyday public services, according to a new book by academics at the Universities of Birmingham ...

How music listening programmes can be easily fooled

Feb 26, 2015

For well over two decades, researchers have sought to build music listening software that can address the deluge of music growing faster than our Spotify-spoilt appetites. From software that can tell you ...

User comments : 0

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.