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When Robots Play Games

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the everyone-loses dept.

Robotics 184

Roland Piquepaille writes "If the theory of evolution has worked well for us -- even if this is arguable these days -- why not apply it to mobile robots?, asks Technology Research News. Several U.S. researchers just did that and trained neural networks to play the Capture the flag game. Once the neural networks were good enough at the game, they transferred them to the robots' onboard computers. These teams of mobile robots, named EvBots (for Evolution Robots), were then also able to play the game successfully. This method could be used to build environment-aware autonomous robots able to clear a minefield or find heat sources in a collapsed building within 3 to 6 years. But the researchers want to build controllers for robots that adapt to completely unknown environments. And this will not happen before 10 or maybe 50 years. You'll find more details and references in this overview, including a picture of EvBots trying to find their way during a game." Read on for a similar robot competition held this weekend in France.

saunabad writes "The annual Eurobot autonomous robot contest for amateurs is held this weekend on La Férte-Bernard, France. This year's theme is 'coconut rugby,' and the robots are collecting small stress balls from the field and carrying them to the opponent's end, or shooting them in the rugby goal, while avoiding the randomly placed obstacles at the same time. Each team has a one main robot and an optional small assisting robot."

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184 comments

WHEN TACO PLAYS WITH HIS PENIS (-1, Troll)

(TK)Dessimat0r (668222) | more than 8 years ago | (#9231965)

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Like a pack of wolves, you surround the carcass
of Linux, hoping to digest any living flesh from
it in a desperate attempt to appetise your
swollen parasite infested stomachs. You make me sick...

# Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. # Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. # Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. # Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. # Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) # Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. # Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. # Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. # Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. # Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)

Re:WHEN TACO PLAYS WITH HIS PENIS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232153)

Stop making ASCII art based on your Magic: The Gathering cards, you failure.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9231967)

that means frost piss

Re:fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232084)

In Soviet Russia, IT FAILS YOU!

"even if this is arguable these days"? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9231975)

If that's a sop to the creationists, I expected better from Slashdot...

Re:"even if this is arguable these days"? (2, Informative)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232110)

It's obviously a reference to how stupid people seem to be these days. Of course, evolution only enhances intelligence when intelligence is required to better survive and procreate--but it's a joke, you're not supposed to read that much into it anyway.

Rob

Re:"even if this is arguable these days"? (1)

FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232198)

Yes, but consider that evolution only works properly when the incompetant/invalid are removed from the gene pool. Humanity has slowed it's own evolution by treating the ill, making prosthetic limbs, creating welfare systems, etc. Not that I'm suggesting we'd be better off without them, of course.

Re:"even if this is arguable these days"? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232409)


Yes, but consider that evolution only works properly when the incompetant/invalid are removed from the gene pool.


Evolution always "works"; it's just that our actions are redefining what it means to be "fit". Of course, what it means to be "fit" is always being redefined on its own, as species interact within their own populations, co-evolve with other species, and environments change.


Humanity has slowed it's own evolution by treating the ill, making prosthetic limbs, creating welfare systems, etc.


Similarly, what does it mean to "slow" evolution? Mutations occur at the same rate as before, reproductive rates (recombination events) aren't decreased by what you describe. I don't see how this is "slowing" evolution. If anything, it's increasing it, in that we're preserving a wider variety of genes.

Some people seem to forget that genetic diversity important to preserve. All the "bad" genes we short-sightedly weed out might have ended up helping us if circumstances change.

An example: sickle-cell anemia. It's a disease, but the gene responsible for it also protects against another disease, malaria. If we start wiping out genes from the population, who knows which ones would have saved us when the next plague strikes?
For that matter, would we want to remove Stephen Hawking from the gene pool just because he's an invalid?


Not that I'm suggesting we'd be better off without them, of course.


Indeed. Even putting the moral objections aside, social Darwinists have poor reasoning on practical fronts, such as the gene diversity issue.

Some of these points were well summarized in an article I recently read [google.com] on talk.origins.

oh why not... (0, Redundant)

isbhod (556556) | more than 8 years ago | (#9231986)

I, for one, accept our flag capturing overlords

Re:oh why not... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232454)

I, for one, accept our flag capturing overlords.

I, for one, capture our flag-accepting overlords. -- a Soviet

Maybe.... (1, Offtopic)

TastyWords (640141) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232005)

we could see some of this in the next "Austin Powers" movie and they can involve the FemBots?

Caution (0, Troll)

Plaeroma (778381) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232008)

I know it's still a long way off from a Matrix-esque scenario (or better yet, Skynet), but this has me a little jumpy. Not because we are doing amazing things with AI these days, but because we keep advancing it in a totally carefree manner. Perhaps it is time to start applying a little caution in our ever forward moving technology push? I for one would feel stupid if all that 'ridiculous' sci-fi stuff ending up happening.

Re:Caution (2, Funny)

KrancHammer (416371) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232059)


We hardly at the stage yet where we should start worrying about Matrix or Terminator-esque doomsday scenarios (if ever, those being inventive.. you-know.. fiction).
Start panicking when a autonomous device can navigate stairs. Then the grand anti-robot strategy of walking to the second floor won't work, and we can start worrying.

Re:Caution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232087)

Look closely and you'll see the parent clearly outlined that it's a long way off.

Re:Caution (2)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232132)

Start panicking when a autonomous device can navigate stairs

But without that we'll never be protected from the terrible secret of space!

Rob

Re:Caution (1)

isbhod (556556) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232141)

doesn't the honda robot navigate stairs? when you should be really woried is when the automous robot carring a weapon makes it's own descision to fire.

Re:Caution (2, Interesting)

Stuwee (739059) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232114)

Okay, I'll bite...

The day that these robots can play capture the flag the way I used to play it as a kid, I will bow to the robots and call them my master. Wading through water, climbing trees, and jumping through thick gorse were all commonplace whilst clutching the opponents' frisbee (for flags were hard to come by).

When the robots can climb that oak to retrieve the frisbee that was skilfully thrown up at the start of the game, I think it's fair to say that the robots may just beat us at capture the flag! It's a game, not world domination.

Re:Caution (1)

nkh (750837) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232291)

It's a game, not world domination.

It's a game, not world domination yet...

Re:Caution (1)

Reaper9889 (602058) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232138)

Perhaps it is time to start applying a little caution in our ever forward moving technology push? Thats perhaps a good idea, but how are you going to stop it? Its not like it matters whatever one country agrees to it because ppl who thinks that it is interresting might just move. And even if the whole world agreed to the law how would you write it? Its not as if you could use "Dont make anything dangerously with AI" After all Nobel said he made nitroglycin because he thought it would be safer...

Re:Caution (2, Insightful)

Reaper9889 (602058) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232152)

Sorry about that I missed preview, it should have read:

Perhaps it is time to start applying a little caution in our ever forward moving technology push?

Thats perhaps a good idea, but how are you going to stop it? Its not like it matters whatever one country agrees to it because ppl who thinks that it is interresting might just move. And even if the whole world agreed to the law how would you write it? Its not as if you could use "Dont make anything dangerously with AI" After all Nobel said he made nitroglycin because he thought it would be safer...

Re here comes the "Bolo, Mark I" "Obsequious" (2, Interesting)

geohump (782273) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232187)

Given the difficult time the better equipped US forces are having "winning the peace" (since the "war" has been declared to be "won".) in Iraq, I'm sure that political pressure to not let any more US soldiers get killed will cause the military to look at using this same technique to create robots which will be able to replace the US foot soldier in as many scenarios as possible.

They already have a backpackable mobile remote "eyeballs" robot that can roam building interiors while sending back pictures and other sensory data to the soldiers outside. Its not far from there to have a semi-autonomous small caliber weapon carrying robot which has been combat trained the same way these capture the flag bots were.

After many generations, once the training is complete the "State of mind" of the most successfull 'bots can be duplicated and copied into as many "x-thousand" of the little buggers as you want.

There is, of course, the small detail of solving the IFF (Interogate, Friend or Foe?) issue.

And how would the robot know when an enemy wanted to surrender to it ?

(Just a leetle closer lil' fella - I won't hurt you, I just want to surr (CrunCH!)... oops. excuse me. Did I step on you? )

Re:Re here comes the "Bolo, Mark I" "Obsequious" (1)

LaBlueCow (768184) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232936)

If we ever created warring autonomous sentient robots, we wouldn't accept surrender as an option anyway. We barely do as it is.

Re:Caution (2, Insightful)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232237)

You're talking about robots that take over the world, right...

Well, why shouldn't they? Evolution is survival of the fittest, and this `fittest' has many senses. For one: they will not take over unless they're just as smart as we are (if not smarter). I can certainly imagine them being much fitter physically (hey can already go to Mars!)

Humans place too much importance on themselves. What we can't get over is that we may just be a stepping stone on the evolutionary scale. Maybe it is our `destiny' (if there is such a thing) to create a `being' (robot, etc.) that's more advanced that we are, that can survive the harshness of space, and continue on our legacy for a billion years into the future possibly on another planet. I don't see humans surviving that long, but I can imagine that the machines we create might.

Evolution is not a moral goal (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232832)

"Evolution" is not a good basis for morality.
If evolution were the basis of someone's morality, then being able to rape a girl, get her pregnant, and have her raise your kid without supporting her would make you more 'successful' from an evolutionary standpoint. It's won't make you 'successful' though. It's a viciously evil, psychotic, disgusting thing to do.

The word "fittest" in 'survival of the fittest' does not mean 'strongest' or 'smartest' but 'the most successfully selfish'. An evolutionarily successful animal is one that has lots of grandkids. What is the point in designing a robot that is successfully selfish?

To put things another way, why shouldn't people place importance on themselves? It seems you're contradicting yourself here. If you do see evolution as the basis of your morality, then humans SHOULD see their own individual needs as the most important things on earth, and to hell with things like 'truth' or 'beauty.' Deviations from this selfishness would just be so that people could get along better and organize themselves more effectively. In short, unselfish acts would be done for selfish reasons. If we base our morality on our evolved desires (I don't), then if robots can't serve our selfish interests, we have no obligation to create them.

There's somthing to be said for a moral aesthetic based on how well a tool or person does its job, but you're still left with my favorite Kurt Vonnegut question; "what are people for?

Re:Evolution is not a moral goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232888)


"Evolution" is not a good basis for morality.


Indeed. Evolution is a scientific theory; it's no more a normative system of ethics than the theory of gravity.


If evolution were the basis of someone's morality, then being able to rape a girl, get her pregnant, and have her raise your kid without supporting her would make you more 'successful' from an evolutionary standpoint.


Assuming that by "evolution as the basis of morality" you mean "it's morally good to maximize one's reproductive success", you still only have a partial point. Humans are social animals; rape doesn't necessarily confer improved reproductive success if your fellow humans confine, sterilize, or kill you. And making the mother else raise your child alone may leave your genes in greater peril than if you'd had a hand in it yourself.


If you do see evolution as the basis of your morality, then humans SHOULD see their own individual needs as the most important things on earth, and to hell with things like 'truth' or 'beauty.' Deviations from this selfishness would just be so that people could get along better and organize themselves more effectively. In short, unselfish acts would be done for selfish reasons.


Well, yeah. That's pretty much the ethical philosophy of objectivism [aynrand.org], and there are adherents to it.


If we base our morality on our evolved desires (I don't), then if robots can't serve our selfish interests, we have no obligation to create them.


Eh, it depends on how broadly one defines one's "selfish interests". I could say that "carrying on my legacy [in robot form?] after I die", as an abstract philosophical principle, is an extension of my own natural "selfishness", hubris, or whatever.

Re:Evolution is not a moral goal (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 8 years ago | (#9233357)

You're talking about `evolution' of the genome. The DNA, etc. This is not the only evolution that goes on. There are social and cultural evolutions.

Humans are way beyond the DNA evolution. Without any sort of technology, majority of humans would just die. If you're just concerned with survival of the fittest, why not consider roaches? They seem to survive pretty well, and pass on their genes to future generations.

If considering evolution of culture, of ideas, of `knowledge' (independent of humans), then we are right there. Humans have made machines that calculate, etc. From our selfish perspective, it appears like they're helping us... from a more global perspective, we might be creating a new species of non-biological life that will succeed us.

Now, if this `life' is derived from our culture, and our ideas, and our knowledge, then in a sense, the human race (our body-free selves; the culture, etc.) isn't dying, it's evolving.

Oh, yeah, in evolution, there is very little regard for an individual. The goals of an individual may be totally contrary to what the whole population achieves.

Re:Evolution is not a moral goal (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233640)

Humans are not beyond the DNA evolution. Yes, we use tools - whether flint axes or Quad Xeon 3GHx. But it still come sdoen to the old DNA: if your chromosomes can beat mine, they will go on to the next generation.

Re:Caution (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232639)

I know it's still a long way off from a Matrix-esque scenario (or better yet, Skynet), but this has me a little jumpy. Not because we are doing amazing things with AI these days, but because we keep advancing it in a totally carefree manner.

Indeed. At this pace, in a few years no flag will be safe from robot capturers!

What are people for? (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232719)

Interesting that I was reading this article while re-reading Vonnegut's "Player Piano." Probably one of the best books he wrote, in terms of style and clarity.

man 6 robots 0 (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232027)

You know all they're going to do is run into each other and explode.

First-aid (4, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232034)

find heat sources in a collapsed building within 3 to 6 years.

Yeah, I think the body will be cold by then...

Rolands' Slashdot (0, Offtopic)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232035)

Seriously. This is tiring.

Re:Rolands' Slashdot (1)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232560)

Have you heard of the tall poppy syndrome?

Re:Rolands' Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232733)

I think that applies to people belittling those who are above them in station.

The guy you replied to would have to hold the position of Assistant Rectum Scraper to be below you in the eyes of society.

Re:Rolands' Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232910)

Would you mind explaining what Roland did to you?

Besides, his article are posted regularly on Slashdot, because they happen to be interesting. Where are yours? Where are his parent poster's? You guys are underachievers compared to him...

Re:Rolands' Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232925)

I don't think people object to whether his articles are interesting or not; I think it's using Slashdot as a platform for the self-promotion of his blog that rubs some people the wrong way.

The world needs a collaboration between (2, Funny)

messiuh (206505) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232045)

Real Dolls [realdolls.com] and QRIO [sony.net] for me to have any vested interest :-)


Kinda like AI.. only replace Jude Law [imdb.com] and give me Rebecca [imdb.com]

*sigh*... how great the world would be.

Re:The world needs a collaboration between (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232139)

Rebecca Romijn (pronounced "Romaine", like the lettuce)...

Mmmmm. Lettuce.

Re:The world needs a collaboration between (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232148)

The Real Doll site is here [realdoll.com] and the program used for the ethernet interface seems to be for Windows only...

Re:The world needs a collaboration between (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232402)

Finally geeks will be able to point at someone's girlfriend and ask "Yes, but does she run Linux?"...

They will never win... (3, Funny)

brxndxn (461473) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232051)

until they master jumping around while strafing and shooting..

I am not impressed until I see one jump+crouch and scream 'I pwn j00!'

Arguable? (3, Insightful)

Squidbait (716932) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232065)

If the theory of evolution has worked well for us -- even if this is arguable these days

Do I detect the scent of an evolution denier? And it is interesting that you implicitly question the validity of a theory even as you cite an example of its successful application.

Re:Arguable? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232239)

It doesn't help evolution's status as a scientific theory that every time someone mentions its problems and/or shortcomings, they are subjected to intense social pressure to stop talking about it and conform.

The current group of theories that make up evolutionary theory as a whole (from paleontology, biology, molecular biology, etc.) DO have some problems serious to warrant real discussion and investigation. But instead of recognizing this and just considering that there are parts of evolution that we don't understand yet, most evolutionists become extremely defensive whenever they are mentioned.

Sure, it's a reaction. But it's an overreaction and it is NOT helpful to the progress of science.

Furthermore, there is nothing odd about questioning a theory even while successfully applying it to solve a real-world problem. That's the difference between practical and theoretical science.

Most things ever created by humans were designed using theories that turned out to be wrong. That just doesn't mean they weren't helpful! For example, almost every large, complex structure on the planet was designed using the principles of Newtonian physics. As it turns out, Newtonian physics, in the real world, never has given us the exactly correct answer. But, it's good enough to tango.

There are thousands of other examples (Ptolmeaic astonomy, phlogiston, etc.) of completely discredited theories that nevertheless gave usable answers to practical users.

I would also like to add that the reason those theories were eventually discredited is because there were anomolies and counter-examples that could not be resolved. Ignoring the current anomolies and counter-examples of evolutionary theory does not help to resolve them, and only tends to make evolution appear to be a bad, or at least sub-par and questionable, field of science.

Re:Arguable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232293)

I aboslutely cannot believe that this post hasn't been modded up.

Disbelief? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232336)

You must be new here ...

Re:Arguable? (2, Insightful)

Squidbait (716932) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232304)

Fair enough. I would never be one to squash legitimate debate about any issue, and I would encourage reasonable criticism of any scientific theory. But given the battle, particularly in the US, between believers in evolution and religious folk of many kinds (who are in the majority), nine times out of ten when someone makes off the cuff remarks questioning the validity of evolution, they are not coming from a scientific standpoint. If the orginal post was meant as a joke, then I'll shut up, although again, given the social climate, there are probably more people who would take the comment seriously than as a joke. If evolutionists are sensitive to unjustified criticism, can you blame them?

Re:Arguable? (0)

LaBlueCow (768184) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232981)

Just a side note - not all 'religious folk' are anti-evolutionists, as you seem to imply. In fact, if you understand the ideas, and the fact that many (if not most) of the Bible is best taken as allegory/metaphor/etc., evolution and creation are no different. Though in Genesis it states it took 7 days to "create" everything, it also states elsewhere that A) he works within the rules he created for the system (i.e. when was the last time an animal went POOF! and appeared?), and B) a thousand years here is but a day there (to him).
And no, I'm not even a religious zealot... I can't stand mos religious folk. But just because you find yourself to be scientific minded, don't throw out something because it walked in under the heading "religion" instead of "science". It may be the same anyhow.

Re:Arguable? (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232497)

If you want, you can still use Geocentric models of the solar system to calculate astronomical events. Heliocentric models are far simpler, but there are no priveldged frames of reference in Physics, so you can do it.

Re:Arguable? (1)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232953)

There are no privilaged inertial frames, but the Earth is not in an inertial frame. If it was, it would be shooting off in a straight line at a constant velocity.

Re:Arguable? (2, Informative)

tkittel (619119) | more than 8 years ago | (#9233096)

> There are no privilaged inertial frames, but the
> Earth is not in an inertial frame. If it was, it
> would be shooting off in a straight line at a
> constant velocity.

Actually "straight line" is also undefined in this context. A frame of reference attached to the earth, is indeed not an intertial frame. But the way to see this is because the laws of Newton are invalid if expressed in the coordinates of such a frame (even in the unrelativistic limit).

Re:Arguable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232982)

Yeah, this is true and actually a good example of what I'm talking about. Sufficiently complex Geocentric models can still be accurate. The accuracy of the *answers* is what makes a theory practical, but the accuracy of the *model itself* is what makes a theory 'true'.

Geocentricity as a way of getting answers about positions and eclipses is still accurate to a useful degree. Geocentricity as the actual claim that the Earth is the center of gravitational motion in the Universe is *not* accurate to any degree.

Re:Arguable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232793)


The current group of theories that make up evolutionary theory as a whole (from paleontology, biology, molecular biology, etc.) DO have some problems serious to warrant real discussion and investigation.


Like what?

The basics are well-established; evolutionary theory isn't going away. Some of details are still up in the air.


Ignoring the current anomolies and counter-examples of evolutionary theory does not help to resolve them, and only tends to make evolution appear to be a bad, or at least sub-par and questionable, field of science.


Who ignores "anomalies and counter-examples" of evolutionary theory, or any other theory? Certainly not the scientists working on the theories, and I don't see any issues being ignored on Slashdot. (I also note that you haven't proposed any such "anomalies and counter-examples" for discussion.)

People study things that seem to run counter to the prevailing ideas; that's the whole point of science. But it is quite another thing to suggest that some fatal or even potentially fatal flaw in the theory is being covered up.

Also, as you note yourself, the anomalies that resulted in Newton's theories being superseded did not result in Newton's work being junked. Newton's laws were essentially right. Mercury's perihelion precession from Einstein's theory didn't chuck Newton's inverse square law out the window, it just added a minor correction to a well-established and rightly accepted theory. Likewise, the basic precepts of evolution -- selection, mutation, and recombination -- aren't going to be chucked. Maybe we don't have all the details about how they interact with each other, but it's disingenous to claim that evolutionary theory has "serious problems".

Re:Arguable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9233156)

"the basic precepts of evolution -- selection, mutation, and recombination -- aren't going to be chucked."

Right, but that's actually where most of the current anomolies exist. For example, evolution works on the raw material of mutation, but there appear to be 'mutation shortages' if you want to go all the way from microbes to whales, especially since you have to get there via fish and land mammals.

There are a great many kinds of random mutation, the most random of which are 'point mutations'. While best at creating new random fodder for natural selection, point mutations are rare and most likely to be harmful. Other forms of mutation are more common, but less likely to produce truly original forms. Creationists scoff at evolutionary timelines of 5 billion years or so, but actually the current question is whether that is even enough time to get all the mutation done. Meanwhile, geology and astronomy are (at about the same theoretical level) pushing back the number of years actually available for life to have evolved on earth.

The real existence of the 'time crunch' anomoly is evident in the recent interest in cosmic seed theories and other theories that, even though they themselves have huge problems, are being looked at by scientists who want to start examining alternatives.

I'm not trying to hype any of these theories, or claim there are crippling problems with evolutionary theory. I'm just saying that reasonable people can have serious, unanswered questions about evolutionary theory and should not be discouraged from mentioning them.

Re: Arguable? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#9233251)


> For example, evolution works on the raw material of mutation, but there appear to be 'mutation shortages' if you want to go all the way from microbes to whales, especially since you have to get there via fish and land mammals.

So how many mutations were required, and how many have we had?

> The real existence of the 'time crunch' anomoly is evident in the recent interest in cosmic seed theories

Hardly solves the purported problem, unless you think whales have been falling out of the interstellar void.

> I'm not trying to hype any of these theories, or claim there are crippling problems with evolutionary theory. I'm just saying that reasonable people can have serious, unanswered questions about evolutionary theory and should not be discouraged from mentioning them.

Sure... feel free to mention some.

Re:Arguable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9233318)


For example, evolution works on the raw material of mutation, but there appear to be 'mutation shortages' if you want to go all the way from microbes to whales, especially since you have to get there via fish and land mammals.


Citation?

Re:Arguable? (2, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232327)

You can equally sensibly interpret the submitter's statement as an observation that we are not evolved for the civilization we live in, because in terms of "number of generations" since civilization (especially 20th and 21st century civilization), it hasn't been anywhere near enough, plus there has been a "lack" of selection pressures in many cases.

(It's not quite that bad because our civilization has evolved to match us, but it's still not perfect; for instance, you can blame "lack of willpower" for the current obesity problem all you want, but in a very real way the blame lies equally on the fact that many common body metabolisms and brains are not adapted for the food in our civilization.)

Re:Arguable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232593)

To simplify Jerf's response: What is arguable is whether it has worked well, and not whether it has worked.

Evolution Robots??? (2, Funny)

keller (267973) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232074)

Nope, when they master capture the flag, how soon before these Evil Robots are ready to take over the world...

Bzflag (3, Informative)

super-momo (691644) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232096)

Wikipedia mentioned Quake and UT. Bzflag [bzflag.org] is also a great CTF game, and a classic.

Re:Bzflag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232348)

Boy does that game ever look like ass. Talk about function over form.
Yeah, I'd probably have fun if I played it, but damn.

Re:Bzflag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232575)

Don't bother. It "feels" just the way it looks.

Landmines? I don't think that's quite necessary... (5, Interesting)

Entropy Unleashed (682552) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232103)

Robots are cool and all, but why bother building and programming robots to find mines when we already have [theage.com.au] biological robots that can do the same thing while running off of water and a little bit of food. It seems a bit like a wonderful solution to a problem that doesn't exist - evolution has been doing pretty darn well at doing this sort of thing so far, so I'm not really sure why would need robots after all this time.

Re:Landmines? I don't think that's quite necessary (1)

Virtual_Raider (52165) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232326)

How 'bout ethics? I know it's kinda old-fashioned and all, but it strikes me as a bit unethical to use living creatures to do this kind of dangerous work. Using a machine would be a great alternative.

Also, as with computers, this things wouldn't be single-purpose. One would expect them to carry on similar tasks in other situations, maybe exploration of dangerous environments.

How much info or intel could one of those rats send back? How would you direct them to a place that was of particular interest to you?

Re:Landmines? I don't think that's quite necessary (4, Insightful)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232535)

VR, recommend you read the article:
  1. they picked the rats because they're too light to set off the mines and are single-minded enough that they work better/cheaper than sniffer-dogs.
  2. The article describes using cables/tethers to restrict the rats to a line of interest. Hopefully, you can extend this concept to multiple rats on parallel lines and see how that'd allow efficient mine-sweeps of areas of concern.
  3. The rats live 6 years and can be bred, travel lightly, etc. This is EXACTLY what the parent poster meant when they talked about evolutionarily handling a cool problem rather than expecting rapid results (cheaply) from robots.
  4. How little do you figure you can make your smart robot for? A few grand? And where will Afghani's (or third-world citizens anywhere, especially those recovering from the economic impact of the very wars that placed these mines) get that money, a steady source of repair parts, etc? Instructions on training, a pair of rats, and fifty yards of string/wire and a clicker could let any small village have their own demining capability. Somehow, I don't think robots are gonna be as versatile or cost-effective.
Seriously, the parent poster on this should have considered posting it as a story (unless it's old news). It sure seems to me to be a great blend of nerd-interest factor, news, and stuff that matters. Props to the parent poster and the involved researchers. Within my life, we'll likely have cheap devices with artificial noses or GPR or another solution. But abandoned mines are too wicked to wait that long.

Even discounting these things, worrying about the ethical implications of hurting an animal by training it as a mine-sniffer ignores the huge ethical implications of going the other way: if nothing is done, people die or are maimed. We've had this argument: using animals to save human lives is not taken lightly, but it is ethically tenable.

Re:Landmines? I don't think that's quite necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232399)

> evolution has been doing pretty darn well at doing this sort of thing so far

Specifically, making rodents that sniff out TNT for treats.

What would be really cool? (2, Interesting)

KhalidBoussouara (768934) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232104)

It would be cool if we could evolve robots so they can make an accurate choices based on facts, like a human being would, without being biased.

Some examples of the tasks a robot could do are judge criminal cases, mark exam papers, and moderate slashdot posts.

However although the robot will probably make the right choice more times than a human we still wouldn't trust these important decisions to them.

Head shot! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232112)

muh muh muh MONSTER KILL! Kill! Kill!

As long as... (5, Funny)

MajikMan (453619) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232113)

...no one asks it to play global thermonuclear war.

I vote we drop capture the flag, and just start up the tic tac toe game right now.

Re:As long as... (2, Funny)

ediron2 (246908) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232347)

As long as no one asks it to play global thermonuclear war.
Or to play 'Capture the John Conner'.

Re:As long as... (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232388)

...no one asks it to play global thermonuclear war.

They can't do worse than the current crop of leaders. No evolving needed to match their ability :-P

Strategy in Capture the Flag (5, Insightful)

crem_d_genes (726860) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232124)

"After several hundred generations, the neural networks had evolved well enough to play the game competently and were transferred into real robots for testing in a real environment. "The trained neural networks were copied directly onto the real robots' onboard computers," said Nelson. "

As someone who spent a considerable amount of my childhood less interested in 'organized' sports and instead playing this game, it seems the whole point of playing Capture the Flag was to develop strategies in how to win. We had a set of rules that evolved over the years, depending on how many kids were playing, what time sunset (or the first person called back to their house would be), etc. We even had evolving words that were based on nonsense - or the inability of one of the younger kids to say a word (for instance - in some "Steal the Flag" games - the term "electricity" is used to talk about a strategy that involved making a line of kids that attacked from one end - they all held hands in the stragegy so that if anyone was captured they would automatically be "freed" by the "electricity" back to their own side. We deemed this a violation of the intent of the game, so we had a *no electricity* rule some little kids couldn't pronounce right - so it became "no a-la-ca-triss" - or something like that).

The game wasn't about *object avoidance*, it was about kicking ass through completely ad hoc strategies that had to be original because the teams always traded players rapidly, so you didn't want to make a rule or come up with something that would come back to bite you.

In this way - the random nature of our game was more like evolution than the winning was (it shuffled the components and allowed for *mutations*). The fact that the model showed no improvements with greater numbers of computers is not in line with what actually happens. The best games were the huge ones.

This simulation was probably a lot of fun to watch once the program was transferred to the robots though...

Re:Strategy in Capture the Flag (1)

twostar (675002) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232705)

First though you had to learn how to walk, how to chase things, etc. You already had a huge advantage on the field. These systems need to learn the basics of individual operations before you can expect them to start using group operations.

Evolution didn't start out with multicellular organisms. It started out with single cell systems that had to compete on its own. THEN you started seeing multicellular organisms evolve.

The robots are just starting out. Give them some time before you apply the whole "kids can do it, why can't robots" analogies. You have to understand, despite what SciFi, movies, news, like to claim, robotics/AI are still just trying to figure out the very basics.

Aww man, (1, Flamebait)

Freston Youseff (628628) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232140)

why do the French have to make everything, including robots, seem lame? I can remember a time, like 5 minutes before I read the article, when I thought robots were badass. Now the whole favourable perception has been ruined.

Please note. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232996)

Note that the Capture-the-flag contest is _not_ part of the French 'competition'.

(The flag probably wasn't white.)

rib-bit. rib-bit. croak.

Vichy.

Gesundheit!

Sure, sounds like a good idea (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232172)

It's not as though this approach hasn't been thought of before. The problem is the limitations of contemporary AI tools, combined with limitations on our hardware. Also, as tasks become more and more complex, it becomes much more difficult to "evolve" systems that behave exactly as you want them to. There are a number of stories of neural nets being trained to recognize some feature from a set of training inputs, and instead keying in on some completely different and irrelevant detail.

Re:Sure, sounds like a good idea (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232425)

Also, as tasks become more and more complex, it becomes much more difficult to "evolve" systems that behave exactly as you want them to. There are a number of stories of neural nets being trained to recognize some feature from a set of training inputs, and instead keying in on some completely different and irrelevant detail.

Hmmm. That describes my boss pretty well. I think i'll check for a port on the back of his neck.

How long for an evolutionary cycle? (0, Redundant)

StefanoB (775596) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232227)

This isn't something very new. Researchers are doing this for some years now. What I wonder most is how long did every evolutionary cycle take? It would be quite nice that a robot could adopt himself to a new environment in let's say, 2 minutes.

Stefano

Re: How long for an evolutionary cycle? (2, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#9233214)


> What I wonder most is how long did every evolutionary cycle take?

When you're using real robots, it takes a fair amount of time since the robots actually have to do enough stuff to be measured for fitness.

OTOH, I've seen video games that could be evolved with video turned off, allowing entire games to be played in a fraction of a second. So some people are trying to get a rough solution by evolving in an accurate simulator, and then fine-tune the solution by additional runs on the robot after the simulator training.

> It would be quite nice that a robot could adopt himself to a new environment in let's say, 2 minutes.

I've seen a demo of this in a computer game, though not in a robot.

Look for more of this kind of stuff in computer games within just a few years.

Robots coding and coding robots (2, Insightful)

eille-la (600064) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232242)

If they can evoluate, why not try to show them how to find the best solution on a given computer program?
I'd like to see how a robot could work on his own code too, to try to always be faster.

Given the fact these robots (programs after all) can evoluate/learn and re-use this evolution, they should be able to learn until their hardware limis them.

As I see it, its all about a really basic but really well done base code, who will start the comparison, memory and self-modification of the comparison code that will make it evoluate.

Thats a really interesting subject

Re:Robots coding and coding robots (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232396)

That's almost exactly what neural networks do. They are essentially re-programming themselves based on the results of their actions, without actually writing lines of code.

Re:Robots coding and coding robots (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232808)

If they can evoluate, why not try to show them how to find the best solution on a given computer program?

It's already been done. [genetic-programming.org] Genetic algorithms is the evolution of a particular solution to achieve the best results, such as finding the best solution to the travelling salesman problem. Travelling to 100 cities in the best possible order to minimize the distance travelled, this would take 100! (that's factorial, not just an exclamation) calculations to search through the entire solution space. Using a genetic algorithm, you can evolve solutions -- in effect, borrowing snippets of cities from one solution and breeding them with another solution and seeing if it's more fit than the others.

Genetic programming is the application of genetic algorithms to actual computer code to produce an optimal program.

The problem with evolved robots (1)

doc modulo (568776) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232245)

The problem with robots which are evolved to handle a task, is that you have no idea of what the programming is like in their heads. You have a working robot, but you don't know how to program one yourself. All you can do is train it and analyze the "brain patterns" afterwards. These things are hard to decipher.

The robots-as-dogs method will probably win because it gets results quicker than the programmed-thought-by-human method. Could be dangerous though, because you don't know what makes it tick.

Asimov's three laws of robotics seem appropriate in this case.

10 to 50 years? (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232267)

But the researchers want to build controllers for robots that adapt to completely unknown environments. And this will not happen before 10 or maybe 50 years.

I disagree that it will necessarily take even 10 years and it will certainly take less than 50. Pathfinding and object search algorithms are strong even today. With a combination of radar, sonar, lidar, and optical recognition, I think we should be able to create robots which traverse formerly-unknown terrain in ten years or less.

I'm not trying to trivialize the difficulty of the problem, all the stuff we take for granted as we navigate a room is really quite a lot to deal with and it is only through practice that we are so successful, but an awful lot of effort is going into these problems (I know "more than ever before" is cliche and obvious but nonetheless...) and it is a top priority for so many very smart people that I cannot see it taking even a decade for useful robots with these capabilities to be in use.

Of course, it depends on what you want them to do when they get there...

Re:10 to 50 years? (3, Insightful)

hypnotik (11190) | more than 8 years ago | (#9233028)

10-50 years is probably a realistic estimate. Spend a bit of time in the AI/AL world and you'll get a picture of how much we still need to learn. Evolving things in a computer simulation is fine, but once you step out into the real world, you see a whole new set of problems. In fact, evolving anything is hard. Your simulation has to be perfect otherwise you end up with a solution which has evolved to take advantage of flaws in the simulation and not perform the task.

Back in the early days of Genetic Algorithms, there were experiments which tried to evolve robots in simulation to go to the end of a corridor and turn in a specified direction. However, once the robots were evolved and "built" in the real world, they often failed. The reasons for the failure were numerous, from not having the same dimensions for the corridor to different motor sensitivities in the robot itself.

They've gotten around this somewhat by feeding randomness into the simulation (see Nick Jacobi's Minimal Simulations). However, for any complex real world type problems, there just remains too many variables to vary and evolution doesn't work as efficiently.

Our new robot masters (1)

Neillparatzo (530968) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232290)

My bowling instructor at State (yes, I took bowling, stop laughing) once said that we could easily build robots that could bowl. But then, what would the point be? They'd bowl a perfect game every time.

And now I have the answer to that question. We need robots that can bowl through minefields! It's all clear to me now.

neural nets != genetic algorithms (3, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232295)

The introduction makes it sound like training neural networks is evolution. Neural networks and genetic algorithms are two very different technologies, although they can be combined.

Yeah sure, only ctf and saving ppl... (1)

solojony (774539) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232413)

This method could be used to build environment-aware autonomous robots able to clear a minefield or find heat sources in a collapsed building within 3 to 6 years.

Or to clear a warfield of targets or find heat sources in the night at the same warfield. Yeah I'm sure the investors pumping that investigation are very interested in finding heat sources in a collapsed building. That will surely produce a lot of revenue.

Not that I am against any kind of investigation because it could be used for war, but the effort made in hiding any kind of military applications from this kind of news is just disturbing.

Heard of earthquakes? (1)

pmfp (682203) | more than 8 years ago | (#9232863)

LA? 911? International presence, however late, in Iran - not that long ago a big load of mud huts got wasted?

Oh poor foobie, didn't you get your anti-Bush cereals this morning? Not everything is about war, but of course technology can be adapted.

Hubris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232539)

I'm sure I'll get modded down for this, since Slashdot is biased against traditional religion, but am I the only one who has a problem with this? God created the world and everything in it, and it strikes me as been excessively prideful for man to "evolve" its pale imitation of life. Remember what happened long ago when man became to prideful and tried to build a tower to the heavens, and God punished man by depriving him of a common language.

I'm sure the religion of atheism has no problem with this, though. I just wish they try reading the Bible some day -- God has a plan for all of us, and it doesn't involve robots.

Re: Hubris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232802)

Excellent troll. I tip my hat to you.

Re:Hubris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9232835)

I almost bought it until the last paragraph. Nice troll, though.

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9233022)

I for one welcome our new capture the flag playing robotic overlords...

I have no problem with robots playing games (1)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 8 years ago | (#9233562)

I have no problem with robots playing games, provided:

  1. A robot shall not win with a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to loose.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own player as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

I think playing with robots might be a great test for us humans and the intelligence thereof. Personally I believe that playing first person shooters is a task so complex and intellectually challenging (much more so than chess or even go, where you only have few objects, simple rules, and a finite number of states) that no robot in our lifetime will be able to play them, maybe even no robot ever. Only time and patience will show us. This is certainly a very important step in robotics and artificial intelligence evolution. Great read.

mo3 dow8 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#9233626)

similarly grisly 'superior' machine. 'first post' Turd-suckiPngly People's faces at move any equipment good to w8ite you troubles of Walnut FreeBSD had long
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