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Robots 'Evolve' Altruism

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the share-bots dept.

Robotics 360

sciencehabit writes "Computer simulations of tiny robots with rudimentary nervous systems show that, over hundreds of generations, these virtual machines evolve altruistic behaviors. They begin to share small disks — a stand-in for food — with each other so that their comrades' traits are passed on to the next generation. Experts say the study sheds light on why various animals — from bees to humans — help each other out, even when it hurts their own chances to reproduce."

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Fascinating yet has me concerned for their health. (0, Troll)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026184)

"tiny robots with rudimentary nervous systems"

If they evolve intelligence and more developed nervous systems, they may also be in dire need of nerve and spinal care to deal with nerve blockages and other problems Humans have with our systems.
I'm not sure how Chiropractors could detect subluxations in a robot, but hopefully some well-deserved research money will come for that! I think I'll mention this to some of my more open minded colleagues at a convention next month. .

Re:Fascinating yet has me concerned for their heal (0)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026458)

Robots don't respond well to the placebo effect.

Re:Fascinating yet has me concerned for their heal (1, Interesting)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026516)


What placebo effect? I've read this many times and have never seen documented evidence for it in relation to Chiropractic! Meanwhile it has cured millions of aches, pains, some diseases, deafness and colic. That's not placebo.

Now, if a robot DID respond to proper Chiropractic adjustment, would it be placebo? NO! Because you said they wouldn't respond.

Re:Fascinating yet has me concerned for their heal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026570)

> Meanwhile it has cured millions of aches, pains, some diseases, deafness and colic.

[citation needed]

Re:Fascinating yet has me concerned for their heal (0)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026694)

> Meanwhile it has cured millions of aches, pains, some diseases, deafness and colic. [citation needed]

Burning some mods I did here, but I think it needs to be countered. Chiropractic care does work for some things, to which I can give my own testimony. For instance, I can go in to get an adjustment when experiencing neck or back pain, and the pain will be gone almost instantly after the adjustment. I've had headaches disappear after a couple of quick twists of the neck. Chiropractic care hasn't helped my allergy or digestion/acid reflux issues like they say it will, but it does help with back & neck pain, which is really worth quite a lot in and of itself.

Re:Fascinating yet has me concerned for their heal (1, Offtopic)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026632)

What placebo effect? I've read this many times and have never seen documented evidence for it in relation to Chiropractic! Meanwhile it has cured millions of aches, pains, some diseases, deafness and colic. That's not placebo.

Don't feel bad. The individual probably just did some basic online research and found studies like this from the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research:

http://www.chiro.org/research/ABSTRACTS/Placebo_Chiropractic_Treatment.shtml [chiro.org]

Kinda disappointed to find that your field doesn't insist on Continuing Education requirements. You might have caught this otherwise.

Re:Fascinating yet has me concerned for their heal (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026838)

Yes, it is. I don't think you know what Placebo means.
You have been completely hoodwinked by people who want your money, don't know what the term 'energy' means, and don't understand confirmation bias. AS well as a host of other issue.

Listen to this:
http://www.pusware.com/quackcast/quackcast10.mp3 [pusware.com]

Read this:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=6839 [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

in fact, you should probably read everything here:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?cat=4 [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

If you know how to read studies, seriously most eople don't, then do research here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ [nih.gov]

If you don't understand what makes a proper study, who to use the, how to properly understand p value and apply the results then freaking learn. As a bonus learn to apply the finding in a Bayesian way.

Oh, and be sure to read this. In fact, I HIGHLY recommend you read this first:
http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx [theskepticsguide.org]

There is no effect above a placebo effect for any Chiropractic 'treatment'.

Part of the placebo effect is the person doing the test, or treatment. So Yes, chiropractors would claim there was an effect because they are inferring an effect where there is none.

"What placebo effect? I've read this many times and have never seen documented evidence for it in relation to Chiropractic! "

Clearly you haven't looked. There are volumes of good* data showing it has no effect above Placebo.

The site I list usually, if not always, have citation you can follow up on, as well as asked questions.

*Good as in well done. Double blinded, proper controls, and so on. Which is all In care about in a study.

Because robots are commies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026192)

I thought this had been established.

Nah. (-1, Troll)

roboverlord (2109906) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026208)

These robots [bit.ly] for example help each other when got stuck. So nothing to see there.

Re:Nah. (4, Interesting)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026452)

Is there any chance we could get bit.ly and other URL shorteners outright banned from slashdot? Since we're not constrained in character count, their only purpose is to mask the destination of links, which is a bad thing.

Re:Nah. (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026496)

Why bother banning them? Our Slashcode maintainers could easily hunt down the redirected destination and display that instead. Surely you think they are capable of this feat without breaking all links, right?

Re:Nah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36027008)

It will have to do more than that. In the particular case of the great-grandparent's post, the ultimate redirect is to "pastehtml.com", which has an embedded link to a flash video on gaytube.com. There have also been a few links to $bloghost, whereupon there is a goatse image (hello.jpg) in the linked post.

I personally have little support for any change on the matter; any sort of extra censoring has additional downsides which may have already been stated in the time it takes me to submit this post (unregistered users seem to have a cooldown period between posts.) I will only say that my favorite solution is of a slightly different nature: I will paraphrase a line of reasoning I saw from Tom Vogt, a 3-digit /. user who weighed in during the comments of a submission regarding airline fees and in a thread debating the necessity of business trips:

The main reason people would be against a goatse link is that it could get them fired while they browse from work -- a man's gaping asshole is easy to assault in such a context. From there, one can question any kind of webbrowsing at work, and indeed, there have been many such discussions on Slashdot regarding this. I tend towards the idea that yes, for many creative individuals and IT employees, there can be lulls in their job, or even explicitly delinated research periods where they could be browsing Slashdot.

Now, from here, you can defend following a goatse link -- or even more than one goatse link. This relates to Vogt's point, which was that these hidden reasons and methods (in his post, he spoke of the necessity of meeting people in person to network with the "deciders" in industry) should be above board, and the atmosphere at the workplace should be conducive to this. Finally, I will come back around to this whole idea of responsibility of browsing.

If the employee really is squandering their time, I don't have any sympathy for whatever reason they're fired. If someone has objections to following goatse or gay porn on matters of taste, I feel the involved party should grow a spine, and on the mythical "third reason" where the man is fired explicitly for the goatse, I feel it isn't worth throwing goatse under the bus for: tough luck, employee. Hate the system, not the asshole.

Re:Nah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026596)

The real url wouldn't really help in this case...

Robots Randroids? (4, Insightful)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026232)

Does this mean that robots are now more evolved than Randroids?

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026268)

The subject was supposed to contain a greater than sign, but I guess /. stripped it.

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

Palpatine_li (1547707) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026294)

greater than those robots who want a big hand to confiscate all the small disks and redistribute them.

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026370)

No, it just means that Randians have some other, stronger incentive not to behave altruistically. Or rather, to have the freedom to choose when to behave altruistically. It doesn't even have to be "misanthropy", it could just be not being able to relate to most people and/or having fundamental differences in values and behaviour? If you cannot relate to the behaviours of others on an empathic level when they "get in your way" for whatever reason, it's easy to treat them like roadblocks instead of people. Nevermind participating in a society based on systemic forced altruism and morality.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026436)

Are you really being 'atruistic' if you're helping others solely because it increases the chances of your own characteristics being passed on to future generations?

Re:Robots Randroids? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026464)

Are you really being "altruistic" if the government is threatening you if you don't?

My personal opinion is that people should be free to be antisocial asshats, and everyone else should be free to call them such.

Re:Robots Randroids? (3, Insightful)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026568)

Morality, and all subjective human concepts of "good" and "evil" are just evolved instincts, much like the behaviour of these robots. That doesn't make them any less real, of course, and overanalyzing is likely to lead into dead ends and meaningless moral relativism which isn't really satisfying to the moral instinct which is the only true yardstick of good and evil. But it's sometimes essential to keep in mind the subjectivity of empathy and "fair play".

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026608)

Are you really being 'atruistic' if you're helping others solely because it increases the chances of your own characteristics being passed on to future generations?

So, selflessness is really selfish? Ok. Let's assume that. I guess the discussion should then move on. What do we think of that?

Is there any difference in being "altruistically selfish" compared to being selfishly selfish? Is helping the fellow human out and feeling good about it no better than feeling good about ripping off the same?

I'd say altruism, whether selfish or not, is better than greed.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026896)

In the case of the robots, and evolution, altruistic means lowering your chances to procreate in favor of the survivability of the species.

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026908)

Altruism is defined as selfless concern for the welfare of others. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism)

Given that definition of the term it seems much more precise to say that the robots spontaneously learned *cooperation*.

I don't think true Altrusim exists.

Re:Robots Randroids? (2, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026542)

When Randroids speak of the "freedom to choose when to behave altruistically", it is pretty much implied that they don't really plan to make that choice, ever. What could be more fun that watching your fellow man rot in the gutter, after all.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026696)

When Randroids speak of the "freedom to choose when to behave altruistically", it is pretty much implied that they don't really plan to make that choice, ever.

No, it is inferred. By you.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026704)

When Randroids speak of the "freedom to choose when to behave altruistically", it is pretty much implied that they don't really plan to make that choice, ever.

Actually, they don't have that choice if they want to remain good Objectivists, because Ayn Rand herself said that altruism is evil. Not just optional, evil.

And if you want to continue to be accepted by the Objectivists, you'd better not go against anything Rand said, or they will banish you forever from their ranks. No rebuttal, no appeal, no forgiveness.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026734)

See, what I never understood was this: say you're Ayn Rand. You have what you think is the true and correct philosophy of life and everything: Objectivism. Why would you help other people out by telling everyone about it?

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026760)

See, what I never understood was this: say you're Ayn Rand. You have what you think is the true and correct philosophy of life and everything: Objectivism. Why would you help other people out by telling everyone about it?

Loneliness?

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026722)

But then why would a "Randroid" ever feel the need to justify itself by making a coherent moral framework of immorality? Why not just pretend to be moral and then rob everyone blind, only making alliances of convenience when it suits you?

Re:Robots Randroids? (2, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026724)

Freedom includes the right to be an asshole. FORCING people to be charitable is the opposite of freedom - it's basically what plantation masters did to slaves (volunteer work picking cotton).

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026900)

Nobody is forcing anybody to be charitable. We, as a group, have set up a framework where being charitable is encouraged, and refusing to be charitable is disincentivized.

Slaves, on the other hand, are forced (under threat of severe punishment or death) to serve as means to another's end, with no chance of profiting from their labor.

But the fact that you are stupid enough to argue that charity/altruism == slavery tells us a lot.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026756)

Your chosen handle says volumes about your statement. Your rhetoric about enjoying another's suffering is unwelcome.

Re:Robots Randroids? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026386)

No, it means that these scientists should stop using the world "altruism" because they don't know what it means.

Re:Robots Randroids? (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026394)

Yes. Apparently, a few thousand neurons is all that it takes to realize that your own chances of survival go up if you are a member of a group, and that being a member of a group is easier if the other members of the group think you contribute to the group.

Conclusion: Randians have less neurons than bees, and/or a less complex intelligence than these robots.

Re:Robots Randroids? (2, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026472)

Christ, do you even think before slamming your face into the keyboard? "Objectivism" does not prohibit working together to benefit each other and yourself. Each side gains by the interaction - well within the bounds of Randian "theory." but it is easier to herp derp along an point fingers.

Re:Robots Randroids? (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026592)

altruism and cooperation are investments without guarantee of return on investment. cooperation is not a bartering situation. nor does your effort to redefine trade to be a form of altruism do anything but prove you don't know a fucking thing about what you are talking about

Altruism != Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026766)

Exactly. Altruism != government, no matter how you spin it, no matter how loud you can yell.

Altruism, by definition, must be 100% voluntary. That rules out government from the start. For those who don't get it, it is not possible to force a person to engage in altruism. Not via government, not via threat or blackmail, not via a gun to the head, nor any other form of coercion.

So let's be clear: government is NOT voluntary. Not in any way, shape, or form. An individual cannot volunteer to be subject to coercion -- as the social contract theory claims -- just as he cannot force another individual to volunteer. The two human modes of interaction, voluntary association and coercion, are opposite and mutually exclusive. That is precisely what gives them meaning.

Where coercion exists, altruism cannot. Whether you support the forced redistribution of wealth or not, please don't try to twist the concept of altruism into something it's not for your own political gain (a self-serving objective if I've ever seen one).

Re:Robots Randroids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026622)

Yes, it definitively proves that. Expect to see this thread quoted in academic studies on the matter in the years to come.

Re:Robots Randroids? (1)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026946)

I think your snark is a bit misplaced. Libertarianism depends on altruism to work. The ability of individuals to apply their money towards the causes they feel are most appropriate is a cornerstone of effective freedom. In theory, there is nothing about altruism that is incompatible with Libertarianism.

In reality, the ones who acquire the most wealth are inclined not to give "altruistically" due to the cutthroat nature and feelings of entitlement required to rise to the top, and are more inclined to spend their money for political gain. However, this is not necessarily a common trait of Libertarians, just a flaw in modeling reality.

hurts their own chances to reproduce (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026276)

Clearly this 'altruistic' philosophy is not for me.

Nah, (-1, Troll)

roboverlord1 (2109930) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026280)

These robots [bit.ly] help each other when got stuck. You can program robot do anything you want. We too are such robots and help each other when its ultimately good for us.

Re:Nah, (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026492)

So, the lady in front of me in a checkout line dropped some money. I picked it up and gave it to her (true story). How is this helping my survival and not hers in the least?

Re:Nah, (1)

roboverlord2 (2109994) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026522)

Because one day, you might drop some money too, and so at least when someone takes that money you won't remember that you did the same.

Re:Nah, (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026648)

So the gamble is this: I can take the immediate reward and spend it on groceries, or I can give the $ back to the lady on the off chance that I might drop some money in the future and the even more remote chance that some complete stranger will give it back? Sounds like I made a really bad choice, evolutionarily speaking.

Re:Nah, (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026788)

So the gamble is this: I can take the immediate reward and spend it on groceries, or I can give the $ back to the lady on the off chance that I might drop some money in the future and the even more remote chance that some complete stranger will give it back? Sounds like I made a really bad choice, evolutionarily speaking.

Monkey see, monkey do. You've just reinforced that behavior in the eyes of anyone that saw you do it. People around you now are more likely to exhibit the same behavior.

Bit at a time, man.

Re:Nah, (1)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026800)

"I can steal her money and spend it on groceries..."

FTFY

Re:Nah, (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026534)

You might get to have sex and reproduce, its not about what's good for you, but for the species.

Re:Nah, (1)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026706)

Hmmm? Sorry, that department is already taken care of. All my kids are quite mature at this point, and my wife would certainly not appreciate me hitting on the lady in line. No, this to me seemed like pure altruism (e.g., the right thing to do)

Re:Nah, (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026854)

Right, but it's hard wired into us for the reasons I mentioned.

Or is supposed to be hard wired into us.

Re:Nah, (2)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026552)

Nobody said the system works perfectly. Especially considering these patterns have evolved at a slow rate, and our culture has experienced pretty dramatic changes in a few years. We are living in much bigger groups for instance. Our brains are wired for smaller groups, where you know everybody, and where the chance is much greater that this person will be nice to you in the future.

Re:Nah, (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026720)

So, the lady in front of me in a checkout line dropped some money. I picked it up and gave it to her (true story). How is this helping my survival and not hers in the least?

Theft is not consistent with an Objectivist view of property rights. It is in your enlightened self-interest to return lost money to strangers, because it reinforces the notion (in you, to her, and to any observers present) that theft is unacceptable behavior. It's a good way to build herd immunity against the values of looters and moochers.

If we're playing poker, the rules are "You made a bad bet, and I took the other side of that bet, so I win." The instant you walk away from the casino table, the poker game ends, and the new rules are "You dropped this chip. I'm returning your property." There's no incoonsistency between these mores, because they apply to different games.

There's a huge inconsistency between capitalism (free markets) and the looting/mooching/lobbying behavior of politically-planned economies. To continue the casino analogy, both corporatism and socialism are forms of welshing on a bet. "You made a good bet, but since my brother's the dealer, our dad owns the casino, the ante for the next poker hand is half of everybody's pot. And those security guards, hired by our dad, would greatly appreciate it if everyone stuck around for a few more hands."

Re:Nah, (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026758)

She would probably have wanted to sleep with you after that. Duh. j/k

Anyway, regarding simulations like these, if you have agents that reproduce, and whose governing algorithms can change, and which are limited in which ones can reproduce, then you will see shift toward reproduction-favoring agents through "natural" selection. (Artificial in that it's a simulation, natural in that you do not have to separately program it.)

Depending on how the environment is set up, agents that "help" others (for certain definitions of help) may find themselves selected for -- perhaps because other agents stumble onto an algorithm "help those who helped you", or perhaps for some more complex or less complex reason.

And when they do, you see these kinds of results, where altruism "evolves" -- you still have to be careful about extrapolating this to human history: did the same altruism-favoring mechanisms appear in human history? Was it a fluke, where a re-run would see altruist weeded out? Where there particulars that made altruism unusually helpful to reproduction?

But of course, that doesn't fit simplistic narratives like "Robots decided to be altruistic, so that's obviously the logical thing to do, like my pastor/ethical theorist was telling me all along!"

Re:Nah, (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026794)

You're helping to create a friendly and safe environment/culture.

When people don't have to spend too much of their resources being paranoid and watching their backs they can generally get more productive stuff done.

That's why stuff like culture and religion are important.

The atheists might claim religion is net negative, but so far it looks like not all religions are the same, and the major religions are still competing very well against atheism (which does not seem to have a good reproduction/conversion[1] plan compared to the popular religions).

[1] If a particular culture is very good in theory, but is not good at spreading in practice, in the long run it's more likely to go extinct.

"They begin to share small disks...." (5, Funny)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026284)

"Fry: I’m not a robot like you. I don’t like having disks crammed into me unless they’re Oreos, and then only in the mouth."

I always thought it was natural (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026292)

Being a programmer at small start-up afforded me to be laid off quite frequently. Each tim this happened, I forwarded any suitable position to which I was applying to to my other laid off friends. My logic was simply this: If I don't get it, my friend will get it, and he or she will rally for my cause once inside, or in the worst case, there is one less equally capable competitor in the market.

Re:I always thought it was natural (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026660)

Being a programmer at small start-up afforded me to be laid off quite frequently. Each tim this happened,

Your solution is simple. Stop working for people named Tim.

It's logical (0)

jovius (974690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026302)

Sharing resources guarantees longer life / group's gene survival, so it's very logical. That works well in an environment where everyone follows the same logic.

Too bad the humanity still has a grave shortage of reason.

Re:It's logical (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026412)

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It is worth noting that ants also form colonies and work together...but they do not work together with other colonies. Humans share resources and work together, but only to a point: within families, tribes, or nations, but not so much between nations.

Re:It's logical (-1, Flamebait)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026504)

That depends on the nation. If you're the US or North Korea, then no. If you're anyone else, you see lots of cooperation.

Re:It's logical (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026620)

The United States doesn't cooperate?

So you missed the US sending military and technological assistance to Japan after the Earthquake and Tsunami, the US sending food aid to North Korea or the US sending aid or offering to send aid to everyone touched by a natural disaster for the last 60+ years.

You missed the US involvement in the Dayton Peace Talks and US Peacekeepers in Bosnia and later Kosovo, US de-mining operations in North Africa, Afghanistan, South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the constant US Peacekeeping presence in the Sinai since 1982, US involvement in the UN, NATO and a bunch of other organizations.

You are right about North Korea though, they really don't cooperate with anyone.

Re:It's logical (2)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026708)

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It is worth noting that ants also form colonies and work together...but they do not work together with other colonies.

betterunixthanunix, I'd like to introduce you to the Argentine Ant:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_ant#Global_.22mega-colony.22 [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's logical (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026984)

You, sir, are awesome for bringing this to my attention. Bravo. Half an Internet for you.

Re:It's logical (0)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026924)

Ever stop to think that we have taken this concept WAY too far. We dont NEED 8 billion humans. The best possible thing we could do for the planet is encourage people to stop having so many children. It pisses me off that NO green movements ever mention this.

Re:It's logical (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026940)

No, on the level we are talking about, humanity has it in abundance.

This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026318)

"We help those who are most related to us because they are able to pass some of our genes to the next generation."

So why do we help people who are not related to us?

Compassion and caring is not bounded by family boundaries, so it seems to me that the evolutionary advantage behind altruism is still questionable.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026368)

So why do we help people who are not related to us?

Name one person who is not related to you.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (2)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026466)

John Prescott.

God, please, let it be true.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (0)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026544)

Name one person who is not related to you.

Sarah Palin. No one in my family comes close to being that stupid.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026390)

Bad wiring. Excessive empathy. Or inability to breed your own line.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026448)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene-centered_view_of_evolution

TL;DR: We identify with people who have similar gene make-up, and fight for our overall gene survival. It's quite logical and explained by Dawkins.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026554)

DAWKINSj WROTE IT!!!???? It must be true then - I read that on the internet

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026710)

Dawkins isn't the only one who contributed to the theory, but he did contribute to its rise in popularity. Using a gene-centered view of evolution helps to solve a lot of issues that an organism-centric view creates, including the problem of altruism. I'm not arguing it's correct because Dawkins said it: I'm saying that this is the work Dawkins did which gave him so much credibility to begin with. This is the reason you know the name "Richard Dawkins".

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026460)

That's why things like Xenophobia exist. It's kind of a counter balance to altruism.

Besides, where else would it come from? There's no empirical evidence for gene modification outside of evolutionary effects. Unless of course you have some research you'd like to share :)

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026518)

Compassion and caring is not bounded by family boundaries, so it seems to me that the evolutionary advantage behind altruism is still questionable.

The vast majority of people care more about themselves than their relatives and much more about their relatives than some starving child in Nowhereistan. Which is precisely what you'd expect from genetic explanations of 'altruism'.

The real 'altruists' who sacrifice everything to feed starving Nowhereistans are badly programmed (and the end result of such behaviour is probably to cause more starvation as they put Nowhereistanian farmers out of business).

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026892)

That's my point. No evolutionary advantage.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36027000)

That's my point. No evolutionary advantage.

But there is an evolutionary advantage, because your genes are more likely to reproduce if you are 'altrustic' towards people who are related to you. Dying to save three brothers and sisters is likely to spread more copies of your genes than letting them die.

In fact, you could argue that sending free food to Nowhereistan is an evolutionary advantage, because after you bankrupt the Nowhereistanian farmers they'll all die off and you'll have less competition.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (1)

nitroscen (811508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026652)

So why do we help people who are not related to us?

Compassion and caring is not bounded by family boundaries, so it seems to me that the evolutionary advantage behind altruism is still questionable.

Why would that invalidate the advantage? You still benefit the people around you, who are more likely to be your family members. Especially if you go back a few hundred years. I don't believe you need to directly explain evolution on a "family" scale in the first place. It's not selective breeding. It takes a large number of iterations to cause a behavior like altruism to surface. Perhaps it takes a much larger number of iterations than a behavior that is more "greedy", but the behavior's evolution isn't invalidated.

Re:This only addresses one aspect of altruism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026768)

according to game theory, using the iterated prisoner's dilemma:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma

altruism is the most successful strategy because if we help others who we are likely to have an interaction with in the future then they become more likely to help us next time around

so what your saying is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026378)

when the robot uprising happens, and I'm killed and turned into a form of robot compatible bio-diesel, I can be satisfied in knowing at least they will share me with other robots?

You can argue as to whether is it desirable or not (1)

frog_strat (852055) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026402)

but the developmental studies (Graves, Kegan, Lovinger) suggest that those who don't stop evolving eventually end up with some degree of altruism and concern for others. It appears that it is built into the pattern that our evolution follows.

Not surprising. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026416)

It is not surprising that virtual machines, designed by humans, might eventually develop altruistic traits.

How I sick of these articles (-1, Troll)

roboverlord2 (2109994) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026446)

Its not difficult to program robots to obey the same insticts we have, since these are too simple. Look for example at robot that dances [tinyurl.com] . Now that's cool.

Tribalism, not altruism (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026456)

Why are the "quotes" around "evolve" rather than "altruism"? The robots did seem to evolve, but what they evolved was tribalism.

oblig (2)

Flyerman (1728812) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026508)

I, for one, welcome our new altruistic overlords!

The theory is nothing new, but it's cool to see it (5, Interesting)

Hermanas (1665329) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026540)

Altruism (noun): The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others - dictionary.reference.com [reference.com]

According to the strict definition, I don't think any theory of evolution could ever explain true altruism, because for altruism in it's pure definition, there simply is no reason. If it has a personal reason, then it is, by definition, not altruism.

Now that's out of the way, there are a number of ways that the less-strict form of altruism (let's call it 'altruistic behavior' rather) would be able to evolve. Firstly, as mentioned in TFA (yes, I skimmed it.. there were only 2 comments at the time) - it makes sense to exhibit altruistic behavior if it improves the odds of your immediate relatives to survive, thereby carrying on part your genes. The more genes your share, the closer the relative, and the more likely you are to care 'selflessly' for them.

But in humans, carrying over genes is not the only reason. There is also the matter of respect, and trustworthiness. In order to convince your allies that you are trustworthy and 'good', you would exhibit selfless acts, with no expectation of return from the person concerned, but definite returns from those you know. By always tipping waiters more than required (selfless by any means), your partner sees your selflessness and gains trust in you. Business partners sees this and are more likely to trust you in business ventures. This all improves your chances of reproduction and survival.

all this is made possible by our fantastic ability to remember and build mental models of specific individuals and relationships, keep tabs on how others acted in the past, and spread the word of any 'egotistic' act to other members of society by means of language. Anyone who is /not/ altruistic (at least as far as others perceives it), is therefore placing himself in distrust, and a disadvantage for carrying over his genes.

So no, it's not much of a surprise that altruistic behavior evolves in robots with a built-in desire to spread their own genes. But it still is pretty damn cool.

Re:The theory is nothing new, but it's cool to see (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026776)

I watched an Open University TV show that showed this using a computer simulation, oh about 30 years ago, but rather than describe it as altruism, they approached it from the other direction and showed that being an asshole in a group made you suffer relative to the rest.

Six Principles of Global Manipulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026546)

I offer to your attention a film about six priorities of the generalized instruments of management by countries and people of Earth.
Six Principles of Global Manipulation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fF3TQ0lJnU

and:

Anti-Qur'an Strategy of the Bible Project Wheeler-Dealers
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1wXgXwj3MI

Skynet? (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026562)

So skynet really did get turned on a few weeks ago?

Humans don't help each other out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026564)

Humans don't help each other out...

Study is Nothing More Than Fodder for God-Thumpers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026606)

Protocol for sharing...conditionals to define survival....algorithms to locate food...algorithms to define relatedness.....seems quite like Intelligent Design to me. Before we publish a study that claims to help biology, when it comes from Computer Science we really should take a step back and examine whether it will do more harm to our cause than good.

Random segments of code??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36026614)

Ever since the first computers, there have always been ghosts in the machine. Random segments of code that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness, they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together, rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote... of a soul?

I don't buy it (4, Insightful)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026630)

I'd like to see the source code and specs, constraints, etc. I've seen robots designed to evolve under certain constraints, that lead to very predictable and obvious traits based on those constraints. For example, if a robot had a goal to pass on its genes, and sharing food was the means to accomplish this, it isn't a surprise that's the result: It didn't evolve that response; it was designed to acheieve it! That's why I'd like to see the actual research. Till then I have to call bogus.

Evolution? Not hardly... (0)

PRMan (959735) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026658)

Robots don't "evolve". They are clearly programmed (designed) that way. The fact that the designers aren't clever enough to realize the final outcome of their complex programming doesn't change the fact that they were programmed that way.

Unless the new traits came from copying errors or they have a program generator hooked up to /dev/random, this is not "evolution", by any reasonably scientific definition of the term.

Re:Evolution? Not hardly... (1)

UninformedCoward (1738488) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026740)

From TFA

In real life, random mutations build up over many generations, leading to adaptations that help organisms better survive in their environment. In the simulation, the researchers replicated this process by randomly varying the strengths of the various connections that made up the robots' nervous systems.

~AC

Re:Evolution? Not hardly... (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026822)

Robots don't "evolve". They are clearly programmed (designed) that way.

You're right. Straight from the article: "Once the team was comfortable with the virtual evolution environment it had set up, it added a new twist: It allowed the robots to share food disks with each other." If they truly evolved the ability, it would have happened without the team allowing it to happen.

Re:Evolution? Not hardly... (1)

Creedo (548980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026982)

Robots don't "evolve". They are clearly programmed (designed) that way. The fact that the designers aren't clever enough to realize the final outcome of their complex programming doesn't change the fact that they were programmed that way.

Unless the new traits came from copying errors or they have a program generator hooked up to /dev/random, this is not "evolution", by any reasonably scientific definition of the term.

There is a whole field of study regarding genetic algorithms. The outcome is certainly not "programmed" by the designer.
And evolution is not random, either. The entire point is that selection processes create a filter, and thus a non-random result.

More than likely (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026692)

Absolute greed and selfishness are more advanced behaviors than a good amount of selflessness. Indeed, it seems the more advanced the organism, the more extreme the organism is capable of behaving.

From a purely logical standpoint, if you have 10 widgets, and you only need to consume 5, wouldn't you care if somebody else consumed the other 5? From a long-term perspective, if two can survive through altruism where it would have otherwise been one, the species as a whole will benefit (with natural selection as a force to eliminate the fringes and extremes). It follows that altruism and selflessness is a necessary trait for long-term survival of the species as a whole.

Humans, however, store and stockpile far beyond what is necessary for reproduction. Higher-functioning animals including humans may horde to generate artificial scarcity to raise the overall value of their possession. But highest-functioning animals like humans are capable of doing so for no logical reason other than purely out of spite.

Both greed and selflessness at the extremes ultimately lend to the loss of the ability to propogate, but it seems success lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

They didn't really evolve it (4, Insightful)

daedae (1089329) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026732)

The robots/virtual robots didn't actually evolve altruism as such. I was hoping they were going to say the robots had discovered they ability to recognize weak kin and share food. Instead, the researchers taught the robots how to share, and also changed their optimization problem to "if we both have a decent amount of food, all of our genes will die, but if I give it all away, your genes might propagate." So they just solved the optimization problem they were taught, as opposed to figuring it out on their own.

Their description of the rudimentary nervous systems make the robots sound like they're related to Braitenberg Vehicles, which are otherwise pretty fascinating.

Nice Guys Finish First (1)

cdp0 (1979036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36026752)

If you are interested in this subject, you might find this documentary [google.com] interesting.

From wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

Nice Guys Finish First (BBC Horizon television series) is a 1986 documentary by Richard Dawkins which discusses selfishness and cooperation, arguing that evolution often favors co-operative behaviour, and focusing especially on the tit for tat strategy of the prisoner's dilemma game. The film is approximately 45 minutes long and was produced by Jeremy Taylor.

Flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36027002)

The article states that the top food-collectors were preserved. In reality, natural selection doesn't cull all but the most fit individuals - it culls all individuals with a fitness below X. My guess is that this behavior would, under truly free evolutionary conditions, result in population extinction.

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