Olivier Georgeon's research blog—also known as the story of little Ernest, the developmental agent.

Keywords: situated cognition, constructivist learning, intrinsic motivation, bottom-up self-programming, individuation, theory of enaction, developmental learning, artificial sense-making, biologically inspired cognitive architectures, agnostic agents (without ontological assumptions about the environment).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ernest 11.5 constructs goals

Like Ernest 11.4, Ernest 11.5 can recognize objects by the possibilities of interaction that they afford. Additionally, Ernest 11.5 has a specific inborn taste for stepping on flowers.

Ernest 11.5 simulates different possible sequences of interactions in spatial memory before selecting the best sequence to enact. These simulations are represented in the bottom-right area of the video. Simulations that produce predictable results (due to information available in spatial memory) are represented with orange outlines. Simulations that produce unpredictable results (due to the lack of information in spatial memory) are represented in blue. The video shows that Ernest learns to simulate increasingly elaborated sequences of interactions as time goes on (see blue squares and triangles spreading in all directions around Ernest from step 253 on).

The high value associated with stepping on flowers favors simulations that lead to even more stepping on flowers. As a result, Ernest learns to make a u-turn to return to a flower when he passes one (see Ernest keeping stepping on the flower from step 260 on).

We find this experiment interesting because it illustrates how an inborn drive can give raise to an explicit goal. Ernest's inborn tendency to step on flowers makes Ernest identify flowers as an interesting goal to reach. Once this goal is recognized, Ernest performs a rudimentary problem-solving computation to reach it. Perhaps the skill to choose a desirable point in space and find a sequence of operations to reach this point underlays higher-level problem-solving skills.