Evolving swarm bots

Robot swarms programmed with genetic algorithms to “evolve” their behavior:

A more recent 2009 study, again at Lausanne, suggests that swarms of bots don't just evolve cooperative strategies to find food (or avoid poison), they can also evolve the ability to deceive. Bots equipped with artificial neural networks and programmed to find food eventually learn to conceal their visual signals from other robots to keep the food for themselves. Forget zombies, a post on Current TV's blog comments about the little bots, this is the real threat. (Fortunately, these experimental bots dont eat brains at least, not yet.)

A peeve: I wish people would stop using the word “learn” for this kind of thing. The robots aren’t “learning” anything; their genetic algorithms are randomly changed and then subjected to a round of selection. I’m not sure they really qualify as “swarm bots” either, if they’re competing instead of cooperating.

Anyway, the article references my UW colleague Chuck Snowdon’s work:

Communication is very important for social organisms to ensure their ecological success. For example, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Charles Snowdon offers a perspective on what the early environmental conditions may have been that led to the hominid communicative explosion. His research into the world of nonhuman primates suggests that while apes and monkeys in the Old World tend to be relatively silent creatures, the New World is home to much noisier monkeys such as tararins and marmosets that vocalize more frequently to show more richness of development and learning in their vocal patterns, and that appear to transmit more information with the sounds they produce than do any of the Old World primates. A key reason, he suggests, is cooperative breeding, which is found in the New World animals to a much greater extent than in the Old World monkeys and apes. New World primates live in circumstances where engaging in rich communicative exchange is advantageous, because parents (and alloparents -- aunts, uncles, and others) engage in cooperative rearing and need to communicate about it. This, Snowdon suggests, may be a critical factor that differentiated our early hominid ancestors from their ape cousins.

I think monkeys are much more of a threat than bots. Now, if there were swarming monkey bots, that would be different.