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 – quantum pigeonholing, a hoverbike drone project and the sun goes quiet

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Biomarkers of the deep

Jul 25, 2014

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain is a unique geological site that has fascinated astrobiologists for decades. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in Spain's Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit ...

The future's most pressing energy questions

Jul 16, 2014

Top researchers, entrepreneurs, scholars, and policymakers from Massachusetts and Switzerland convened at Northeastern University on Friday for an energy summit, where participants discussed innovations and ...

Testing the waters to fight infections like fish

Jun 04, 2014

A novel technology developed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to block human infections by taking a lesson from fish has landed a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps ...

Recommended for you

How science can beat the flawed metric that rules it

3 minutes ago

In order to improve something, we need to be able to measure its quality. This is true in public policy, in commercial industries, and also in science. Like other fields, science has a growing need for quantitative ...

Decoding ethnic labels

44 minutes ago

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

22 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

22 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

22 hours ago

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

Jul 29, 2014

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

User comments : 0