Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Autonomous Mental Development

Just a quick post to record a link to a topic of interest and relevance to software agent technology, machine intelligence, and knowledge management: autonomous mental development.

An article in Science magazine by Juyang Weng, James McClelland, Alex Pentland, Olaf Sporns, Ida Stockman, Mriganka Sur, and Esther Thelen entitled "Autonomous Mental Development by Robots and Animals."

How does one create an intelligent machine? This problem has proven difficult. Over the past several decades, scientists have taken one of three approaches: In the first, which is knowledge-based, an intelligent machine in a laboratory is directly programmed to perform a given task. In a second, learning-based approach, a computer is "spoon-fed" human-edited sensory data while the machine is controlled by a task-specific learning program. Finally, by a "genetic search," robots have evolved through generations by the principle of survival of the fittest, mostly in a computer-simulated virtual world. Although notable, none of these is powerful enough to lead to machines having the complex, diverse, and highly integrated capabilities of an adult brain, such as vision, speech, and language. Nevertheless, these traditional approaches have served as the incubator for the birth and growth of a new direction for machine intelligence: autonomous mental development. As Kuhn wrote (1), "Failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones."

What is autonomous mental development? With time, a brainlike natural or an artificial embodied system, under the control of its intrinsic developmental program (coded in the genes or artificially designed) develops mental capabilities through autonomous real-time interactions with its environments (including its own internal environment and components) by using its own sensors and effectors. Traditionally, a machine is not autonomous when it develops its skills, but a human is autonomous throughout its lifelong mental development.

-- Jack Krupansky



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