Monday, 28 February 2011

The nature of the social agent

A classic paper by Kathleen Carley and Allen Newell classifies different types of social agent, as a useful starting point for social simulation. Based on their classification our robots seem to be cognitive agents in real time interaction. The interaction at present is imitation. Through this imitation the robots might evolve in terms of their individual behaviours (as agents) as the context evolves (context includes the other agents - other robots - and the physical environment). Carley's classification suggests that as the robots evolve and become emptional cognitive agents, the processing capabilities of the robots can become less. If interaction leads to the development of social structure, social goals and then culture, the environment is becoming increasinly enriched.
I found this a helpful way of thinking about the robots.
Paper details: Carley K and Allen N. The nature of the social agent. Journal of Mathematical Sociology. 1994. 19 (4) 221-262.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Medicine in Society: a complex mix

I had the honour of giving my inaugral lecture as Professor of Medicine in Society on January 18th 2011 at Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick. During the lecture I reflected on how the artificial culture project differs from the research I do most of the time on health and health care. Much of my research is enmeshed with its locality and time, whatever the extent of the locality and however long the time. The artificial culture project attempts to step outside the constraints of time and locality in building a robot society. Full text to follow.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Robot Imitation: What do children think?

One of our main research problems was whether we as humans can identify emergent patterns of behaviour within a swarm of robots. In order to assist in this interpretation, I demonstrated a video of e-puck imitation (speeded up) and asked a group of ten children (aged 7-8) what they thought was happening in the picture. I specifically did not ask whether they can ‘spot any patterns’ as I felt that this was a leading question.

The majority response was that ‘the robots are making triangles’. Only one child stated that ‘they are copying each other’. I then showed the children the player stage video without tracks and subsequently with tracks. Whilst they were watching the player stage with tracks, one child remarked: I think the robot people made the robots to make shapes but these robots can’t do it very properly so maybe the robot is broken. I think you need to take the robots back for the robot scientists to fix them’.

Even though the children were engaged in watching the video which indicates that they were not bored, their responses did not imply that any patterns were recognised. What does mean for our research? Are children not the best candidates for pattern spotting? Or maybe there are no patterns for children to spot.