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Robotics Science Technology

Robots 'Evolve' Altruism 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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Robots 'Evolve' Altruism

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  • Robots Randroids? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guspasho ( 941623 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:40PM (#36026232)

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:52PM (#36026386)

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

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:52PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:57PM (#36026456)

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

  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:58PM (#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.
  • by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:04PM (#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.
  • by Securityemo ( 1407943 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:05PM (#36026568) Journal
    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".
  • 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

  • I don't buy it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xyourfacekillerx ( 939258 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:09PM (#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.
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:16PM (#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).

  • by daedae ( 1089329 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:17PM (#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.

  • News... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bobfrankly1 ( 1043848 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:36PM (#36027034)
    Robot does what it was programmed to do. Film at 11.

    In other news:
    Mac fanboys still arrogant hippies.
    Windows fanboys still wearing pocket protectors.
    Linux fanboys still have 6 digit Slashdot accounts.
  • Except people *aren't* just altruistic towards people they are related to. In fact, quite often it's just the opposite... particularly among young people who happen to be an ideal breeding age.

    The genetic reward is proportionate to how much of one's genes the recipient shares. Thus altriustic behavior will (and should) drop off outside of children, of family, of relatives, of tribe, finally of all of humanity... however, it never reaches zero as long as the recipient is approximately inside our species.

    And there is the confounding variable that because society rewards altriusm (for obvious reasons), individuals will invest in appearing to be altruistic, especially if they actually are not altruistic. Such behavior will overwhelm the very mild altruism that we are looking to observe between strangers. You need to track down some of those "subject is not aware he is being observed" experiments.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford