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Robotics Science Technology

Robots 'Evolve' Altruism 360

Posted by samzenpus
from the share-bots dept.
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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Robots 'Evolve' Altruism

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  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:47PM (#36026318) Journal

    "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:Nah. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wagnerrp (1305589) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:57PM (#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.

  • 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.
  • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:02PM (#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).

  • by Hermanas (1665329) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:04PM (#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.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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