⁂ Computational ethology – Who we are and what we do

We have been building autonomous machines for over twenty years and have become scientists on a mission to communicate. Our disciplines are computer science, psychology, biology, neuroscience, physics, art. Our subject is behavior.

What is behavior? Everything we do is behavior. We, as in humans, people, robots, and so on. Everything every animal ever does is behavior. Finding your way through the city is behavior, lifting a glass to drink is behavior, washing, talking, scratching yourself, building a house, etc. You get the picture.

How does behavior come about? How is behavior changed and adapted when the circumstances change? How do animals learn when there is no text book? How can self-learning robots benefit from this knowledge? Which behavior is more intelligent than another behavior?

Then, what is artificial intelligence, AI? Well, the A is trivial and we are stuck with “what is I?”.

Intelligence depends on the context. The deep sea is a different context than urban sprawl. A spaceship’s atmosphere (like earth) with little CO2 in it is a different context than one with a lot of CO2 in it. Depending on the premise the same behavior is more or less intelligent.

Intelligence includes the capacity to change behavior. This is itself a behavior. First to find out in which way it should be changed, and then, yeah .. changing it! For this you need motivation, curiosity, playfulness, exploration, creativity, problem solving.

The are two big social-economic questions. The first one is, what is our relationship with nature. The other one is, what’s our relationship with our self. The science of intelligence can contribute here with insights based on quantitative methods. Because, hurray, it turns out that not a single one of our decisions comes about in the way we thought it does, historically. The introspective perception available to everyone’s conscious experience is largely wrong, or
misleading.

To really get ahead, we need to get more people onto the science of adaptive behavior.

For this we choose approachability on purpose, much in contrast to almost any other style chosen by our competition, and established institutions in the field. This is realized through simplicity, absurdity, and softness. Pet-like robots and synthetic animals.

This provides the perfect playground for fully embodied learning on a given body with all its individual peculiarities. Get behavior grounded in self-perception. Honest machines have more fun.

Looking forward to meeting you on the way.

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