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.


Frances Griffiths said...
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Frances Griffiths said...

I like the suggested definition of culture. The relative nature of what we mean by culture allows us to consider how the culture of each group is changing over time, without the problem of considering whether the group has reached a stage of 'having culture' as the latter is defined in relation to the other groups. Avoiding concern with the boundary of a state and focusing on the state itself and how it changes has been important learning for me when considering people with chronic illness and how they change over time. Focusing on the state of a person/group of robots (identified by comparison) rather than transitions between states fits with the ideas of emergence. We are not looking for a small number of causes of transition from one state to another, rather trying to understand the emergent state. Potentially this project will allow us to understand how the emergent state is reached - something that may currently not be possible when considering people.

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