Evolution of body and mind in AI

People often consider Artificial intelligence disembodied like a program, drifting in a digital space. But human minds are in firm contact with their bodies. An experiment with virtual creatures doing tasks in simulated situations showed that AI might profit from having a mind-body structure.

Stanford scientists and researchers are taking interest in the physical-mental exchange in human evolution. Can it be the reason that the capabilities of the body influence the brain and vice versa? Over a century ago, it was suggested before, and indeed it’s evident that with limbs, one learns more instantly to manipulate objects than the other without limbs.

However, it is difficult to determine if the same could apply to an AI as their evolution is more structured. Still, such questions are compelling: Could an AI better study and accustom to the world if it has developed to do so from the beginning?

The experiment they created happens to be similar to simulated situations that have been practiced for several decades to examine evolutionary algorithms. It works like that: you make a virtual place and put simple artificial creatures into it. They can be a few coherent geometric shapes having the ability to move in random ways. In a thousand similar shapes, you choose the ten, create a thousand variations, and repeat the action repeatedly. Soon, you will have polygons walking across the virtual space.

As the researchers explained, they wanted to compose their simulation more shifting. These experts weren’t simply trying to create virtual objects walking around but to examine how those objects learned how to do so. They also wanted to know if some of these creatures learned better or faster than others. The team built a similar simulation to the old ones to find out all the hidden information, dropping their sims into it at first to learn to walk. The simple shapes had heads and a few limbs, with which those objects developed several impressive walks. Some moved forward; others developed an articulated walk and effective style.

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