Virtual predator is self-aware, behaves like living counterpart
So-called Cyberslug developed at Illinois has simple self-awareness
Unlike most other AI entities, Cyberslug has a simple self-awareness, said University of Illinois molecular and integrative physiology professor Rhanor Gillette, who led the work with software engineer Mikhail Voloshin.
Cyberslug knows when it’s hungry, for example. It also has learned which other kinds of virtual sea slugs are yummy to eat and which are less desirable.
Sea slugs typically choose one of three responses when encountering another creature in the wild, Gillette said. “Do I eat it? Do I mate with it? Or do I flee?”
“Their default response is avoidance, but hunger, sensation and learning together form their ‘appetitive state,’ and if that is high enough the sea slug will attack,” Gillette said.
"When P. californica is super hungry, it will even attack a painful stimulus,” he said. “And when the animal is not hungry, it usually will avoid even an appetitive stimulus. This is a cost-benefit decision.”
Cyberslug behaves the same way. (Run a Cyberslug simulation here.)
The new model uses more sophisticated algorithms to simulate Cyberslug’s competing goals and decision-making, Gillette said. Over time it learns what is good – and not so good – to bite. Just like P. californica, the more it eats, the more satiated it
“I think the sea slug is a good model of the core ancient circuitry that is still there in our brains that is supporting all the higher cognitive qualities,” Gillette said. “Now we have a model that’s probably very much like the primitive ancestral brain. The next step is to add more circuitry to get enhanced sociality and cognition.”
Local co-authors of the study also include medical information science professor Jeffrey Brown and graduate student Ekaterina Gribkova, of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois.
The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health supported this research.
Diana Yates, Illinois News Bureau
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