Robots Evolve Family Altruism

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BY STEVEN SPARKMAN ANCHOR JIM FLINK You're watching multisource science news analysis from Newsy. Robots...
BY STEVEN SPARKMAN ANCHOR JIM FLINK You're watching multisource science news analysis from Newsy. Robots are showing us how to be nice. A new study using robots tackles a longstanding theory on the evolution of altruism. A writer for io9 explains the theory, which attempts to answer why we help others at our own expense. “Altruism seems to be counter-intuitive from an evolutionary perspective, because it means helping people who won't necessarily improve your chances to survive. But there is an evolutionary logic, described in what's known as Hamilton's rule: you'll help people in your family, because they pass on your genetic material, too.” The rule predicts that the more closely related a group is, and the lower the cost to the individual versus the gain to the group, the more likely altruistic behavior will evolve. Those values are hard to measure in nature, but much easier for researchers to control in the digital world. “We decided to use small robots to test the different rates of genetic relatedness in a population of robots, and the different costs and benefits that these robots can actually get by cooperating together to push small objects to a nest.” (Video source: Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL)) This isn’t the first time these researchers have taught robots how to work together. In previous experiments, robots learned to cooperate when foraging for food. In the new study, the robots forage solo, but have to decide whether to keep all the food for themselves or to share it with the whole group. The researchers tweaked the costs and benefits of sharing to see how it affected the groups’ altruism. (Video Source: Plos One) After 500 generations of robots passing on their genes in a sped-up simulation, the researchers were able to see if the rule’s predictions held up. DailyTech reports: “...the researchers observed when robots would share, when they wouldn't, and what the consequences were for both options. The results of the study showed that Hamilton's rule of kin selection was exactly right. Groups of robots that were related shared the seed, and the family became strong and was able to pass its code to the next generation.” So if robots can evolve to be altruistic, maybe they aren’t plotting to enslave us after all. Follow Newsy_Videos on Twitter Get more multisource video news analysis from Newsy Transcript by Newsy
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