Friday, 26 June 2009

Chimpanzee culture on Material World

There was a great piece on this afternoon's Material World - an interview with Andrew Whiten about cultural traditions in chimpanzees. Andrew Whiten makes the very interesting observation that while many animals appear to have 'traditions' (i.e. separate groups of the same bird species with different birdsong), chimpanzee have dozens of traditions. Does this mean that chimps have culture? I think so, yes.

Chimp culture appears, however, to have remained relatively static - Whiten observes that archeological investigation has shown traditions to have persisted for hundreds if not thousands of years. Longer, I would suspect, given that anatomically modern chimps have been around for over six million years. In other words, the big bang of human cultural evolution has never happened for chimps. What cognitive deficit in chimps might account for this..?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Artificial Culture web pages now up

Check out our new Artificial Culture project web pages:

These have been built using Google Sites. A remarkably straightforward way to create both the structure and content for a set of web pages, without HTML coding (actually I did have to tweak the code a couple of times). Integration with other Google applications means, for instance, that creating a slide show of images needs you only to upload the images to a Picasa album, then insert the slideshow gadget and point to the Picasa URL. Add another image to the album and it automatically appears in your web site slide show.

There is one limitation: while invited collaborators can sign-in and add comments - in blog fashion - to existing posts (as well as create and edit new pages), ordinary visitors to the web site cannot. Given that blog functionality is clearly built into the sites technology, it ought to be straightforward to provide an option to allow comments to be submitted, to selected pages, by non signed-in visitors. Or a blog gadget. Google..?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A working definition for artificial culture

Written by Alan Winfield (transfered by Frances Griffiths prior to deletion of a Wiki page)
There are many definitions for Culture - see for instance the Wiki article on Culture. Most, perhaps not surprisingly, are human centred. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, defines culture simply as "patterns of human behaviour".

In this project we clearly need a working definition for culture, or to be precise, artificial culture, that makes sense both for robots, but has sufficient generality to allow us to (possibly) construct hypotheses about the processes and mechanisms for the emergence of human culture by analogy with our emerging artificial (robot) culture. (If, indeed, anything we can claim as artificial culture does emerge.)

A folk-definition of culture is simply the way we do things around here. This has some merit firstly because it is not species specific, and might apply to humans, whales, robots, or aliens. And secondly, because it is a differential rather than absolute definition - implying that the way one group does things is different to the way another group does (the same?) things.

Let me propose a working definition for artificial culture based on this:

Artificial (robot) culture is defined as: sustained and measurable emerging differences in behaviour between two or more groups of robots, where those groups have divided or split off from a common ancestral group, and the behaviours are traceable to common root behaviours in the ancestral group.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Welcome to the project blog for the Artificial Culture project.

For earlier blogs on this project click here.