Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Green Brain

Recent news from the universities of Sheffield and Sussex (1) about a highly ambitious project to replicate a honey bee brain, in an attempt to advance the stagnant field of Artificial Intelligence, is encouraging. Brains, driven largely by instincts are likely more amenable to replication by currently available techniques. However, such replication is closer to automation than intelligence. Research in this direction is useful to build more intelligent automatons. Adding a layer of cognition to machines could be useful. If this can be considered different from the larger vision of AI – an ability to replicate the human brain in all its grandeur, we may be able to advance both fields faster.

The engineering concept of Artificial Intelligence has been stuck, attempting to connect brain replication with automation, for many decades. One of the primary reasons is that the structure and semantics of contemporary software are not amenable to modeling holistic phenomena. It is easier to build an airplane or a robot from component parts systematically. Engineers have been trying to extend this basic idea to brains with very little success.

Advancing contemporary AI techniques to creating brains with high programmability, such as the honey bee brain, is a useful exercise to advance robotics. But it is unlikely to advance our understanding of complex brains.

(1) 'Green Brain' project to create an autonomous flying robot with a honey bee brain. Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 11:07 in Mathematics & Economics