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About a year or so ago, I came across a New Scientist article that left me feeling rather incensed at the lackadaisical and somewhat slanderous title it promoted to their readers. In fact, when I had gone through some figures in my head – which I will do once again in a moment for you all – it made consider how wrong this article was… And how steeped in delusional values we had all become. I mean, surely everyone could see what a bargain the people of the world were getting here… ? Could they not!? A ‘bargain’ that would allow us all to protect such a priceless wonder of diversity in action, a natural flourishing ecosystem still – on the whole – intact, such as the Yasuni National Park rainforest, for. While I again hate to use the term ‘bargain’ in the context of this blog, I feel it readily addresses the present mindset that many of us here in the West have adopted… A mindset that has become so far removed from the way we used to live… A mindset that is beginning to take for granted the ease at which we can go down to the shops to get what we need to eat, live and (although our luxurious mode of living probably begets the use of another more appropriate word) ‘survive…’ A mindset that is steeped more in corporate sensibilities than the careful consideration of how an ecosystem operates within parameters of sustainability.
I will reproduce it here as it is only a short article, one from which I would like to pick out some important points from so to bring this whole escapade into focus… Might I also observe there is no mention of who the author was either!?
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Pay Us Oil Money, Or The Rainforest Gets It
03 November 2009
ECUADOR’s unprecedented offer to accept payment for not extracting oil from beneath the Amazon rainforest is beginning to draw interest. The move could usher in a new way to both combat climate change and prevent damage to ecologically diverse and sensitive regions.
More than two years ago, Ecuador said it would abandon plans for drilling in Yasuni National Park, one of the few pristine regions of Amazon rainforest remaining, if it was paid half of the $7 billion that it expected to earn from tapping the oilfield. “This was a major turning point in the ‘drill, drill, drill’ mentality,” says Matt Finer, an ecologist with Save America’s Forests, an environmental group based in Washington DC, which released its analysis of the initiative this week (Biotropica, DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2009.00587.x).
No country has taken up Ecuador’s offer so far, but Finer says there has been “increasing chatter” that Germany will pay about 20 per cent of the total.
Later this month, the UN Development Programme is expected to announce plans to hold contributions in a trust fund, passing along only the fund’s interest to Ecuador. The idea is that this will give future Ecuadoran governments an incentive not to start drilling for oil, while also encouraging other nations to pay up.
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Right… Here comes the part where I do my best to put the facts into focus from a greater perspective that we should all consider here on Earth. As the New Scientist article states, Ecuador needs – or perhaps I should really use the words “would like” – to raise half of the $7 billion that it expected to earn from tapping the oilfield underneath the Yasuni National Park… Which would be about $3.5 billion that they would like to raise.
And that’s when it happened… There I was thinking… “Wow! That’s a lot of money!” But, having recently read something about the Optimum Population Trust, I then remembered how many people presently reside here on the planet Earth… Which is about 6 billion people to date. So then I go all simple minded like… And I think to myself… “So If every person gave roughly $0.60 to the project, it could raise $3.6 billion. Nice! Oh… But hang on one moment… Not everyone is that rich. I remember when I was in the The Gambia back in 1992, people we’re getting paid the equivalent of about $4 a week with the ‘then’ exchange rates.” I know this because I bought two packets of Marlboro cigarettes for a local fellow there in 1992, mainly as a way of thanking him for his kind hospitality while I was on holiday there… And, when he saw the red and white packets I was handing to him, he literally said that it was too big a gift for what he had done, and that he could not accept them.
This literally left me stumped… And, after doing my best to give him the cigarettes, I proclaimed that “It’s really nothing! Seriously, these are for you! Together they only come to $3…” And that’s when the penny dropped… That’s when I realised that I had naively put my foot into the quagmire of inequality that exists all around the world… And traipsed about this fellow’s good will and hospitality until I had unwittingly made it painfully and obscenely obvious that, not only is there inequality in the world, but those who are better off than the rest are shamefully unaware of how fortunate they really are in the greater scheme of things… And what a trip that was. Thankfully my guest was too kind a gentleman to think ill of my naivety and he openly told me about how much he got paid for, literally, picking “peanuts.” And no pun intended there.
Anyway… I sidetrack the point. So there I am… Having realised that, if everyone the world over would give $0.50, the inequality that exists between the world’s varying economies/countries would mean that some people would have to give much more than others… And it would seem that the poorer people of the world would be worse off. So I figured, “Okay. Let’s focus on one rich, big country… A country that is well off enough so that it wouldn’t be such a problem if every person gave a donation to the Yasuní Rainforest Campaign.” And I came up with the USA… Mainly as they were the richest country on the American continent.
Right… So… Without getting to involved in statistical analysis i.e. looking at the median income per household in the USA (which is the amount which divides the income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above that amount, and half having income below that amount), I wanted to discover the per capita income of the USA… Which was about $47,000 per annum, per person in 2010.
Then I wanted to know what the population of the USA was in 2010… Which was about 309 million (or 309,000,000) people. Thus, a total of $14,523 trillion was made by the USA populous in 2010, before tax… Which is quite a staggering figure when one thinks about it. [As a quick comparison, in 2009 The Gambia's GDP was apparently $789 million, which was only 0.005% of the USA's GDP... Talk about imbalanced!?]
Okay… Let’s go back to what the Ecuadorian Government hope to raise… Which is $3.5 billion. So… If we divide the number of people in the USA i.e. 309 million into the $3.5 billion requested by the Ecuadorian Government, we get the number of dollars each person in the USA would have to give to raise the money needed to save the Yasuní National Park Rainforest Reserve… Which is roughly… Wait for it… $12 per person… Well, let’s look at it slightly more correctly… It’s $12 per each $47,000 earned in the USA!!! So if for every $47,000 earned in the USA $12 was given to the Yasuní Rainforest Campaign… If every person in the USA gave $12 to the Yasuní Rainforest Campaign… Then the people of the USA could prevent the disastrous consequences for drilling for oil in the Yasuní Rainforest Reserve. Talk about a bargain!!!
I mean… $12 is 0.026% of $47,000. And they’d only have to donate the $12 once to easily raise the $3.5 billion! Which really is peanuts…
But let’s not forget the rainforest itself… And how valuable that is in it’s own right… I mean… Can one ever put a value on something so complex and irreplaceable? If it was to be destroyed… How long do you think it would take to get back into something sembling its present state? Even… Does our need for “oil” take precedence over the “real-estate” inhabited by other sentient beings… Much like our desire for the meat on our plates? Do we i.e. mankind, always fail to consider the delicate rarity of natural ecosystems here on Earth? Do we always expect everything to dance to our tune for our own entertainment? Personally… I’d give the Yasuní-ITT initiative $12 from my salary – and do so each year – to protect the Yasuní rainforest from the fallout of oil exploration and drilling. Wouldn’t we all be better of giving 0.026% of our income each year to help preserve the rainforests of the world?
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To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.
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After all… The world is our home. The Earth is our home! And despite the imagined boarders of mind that we divide the globe up into… We can never deny how interconnected we all are to one another. The ‘self’ that we all cling to so ardently is nothing more than another example of our fractured way of thinking about things… A way that allows us to deny any responsibility for our present course of action and ethics. So would the author of that New Scientist article please stand up and answer for the memetic distortion inoculated onto the populous’ minds, and correct the context in which this idea is presented i.e. that we are living on planet with limited resources… A planet that has a bounty of priceless gems where life – a rarity of wonder in the vast universe – abounds in an interconnected and interdependent web of vibrant interaction? That we have a chance to halt something destructive… Even if only for a short time i.e. 100 years maybe… ???
And even if it is only for a short time that this deforestation is halted… Isn’t it worth it… So as to provide those in the future with a chance to glimpse at what our generations of people have chosen to do? Perhaps they might find themselves in a time when they’ll be able to more clearly distinguish between what we really need to live… And what is only a luxury i.e. like oil… And so make a better decision about the whole ecosystem of Earth’s life… Well… Only time will tell.
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All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.
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I will leave it on that note… And present you with a BBC New reel that explains the situation to date in Ecuador concerning the Yasuní Rainforest Campaign.
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Ecuador’s Oil Gamble
News on global issues. Linda Pressly reports on a deal offered by Ecuador over an oilfield under a rainforest. Ecuador is asking for billions to stop the field being developed.
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To find out more about Save America’s Forests, please visit their website by clicking here.
To read more on the Yasuní Rainforest Campaign, please click here.
Or to find out where I sourced the New Scientist article from, please click here.
Plus, to find out more about a forthcoming movie that aims to bring this new way of thinking about the world’s forests vs. our ‘need’ for oil into the “lime-light”, please visit the “Yasuni – Two Seconds Of Life” website here.
And to see where I sourced the BBC News reel from, please visit the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.
Just the other day I remembered something that I had done recently, which was to make a vegetable stew for a friend… A friend who is not very well presently. And, as far as I can remember, it was a hearty vegetarian dish… A speciality of mine that I learnt how to make after I came out of university, when I found myself with a bit more money than I had usually been used to… What better way to spend it, I thought, than on fresh vegetables and good wine. In fact, it was this good old vegetarian combination of a leek and potato soup, sprinkled liberally with organic pearl barley and fresh herbs, that frequently put me straight on the path again after many a long, winding, fun-filled a weekend down in Glastonbury town. But then… That’s just what I recall.
Because, when I spoke to my partner about the food I had made after she went to deliver it over to our ill friend a few days back, she had told me how our ill chum had mentioned that the soup was ‘really good.’ In fact, she mentioned that she couldn’t believe that a vegetarian soup could have tasted so good! However, just after hearing that, my partner mentioned that she told our unwell friend that it wasn’t a vegetarian dish at all… In fact, she had said that it contained some lamb in it too. So I suddenly began to think that perhaps I had put some lamb in the soup, just especially for our ill friend, who certainly wasn’t a vegetarian… !?
However, when I began to piece together the parts in my mind of what I remembered about making the soup i.e. we had had lots of organic leeks and potatoes which needed to be used at the time, along with the fact that I knew a vegetarian brew would be better for our unwell friend than a meaty dish, as well as we were out of mutton for the moment… I found myself remembering something totally different to what I had been told.
Certainly this wasn’t the first time that a minor discrepancy such this had presented itself to me in a social context… In fact, with almost everyone I know (including several people I do not know), I have – at sometime or another – come across some type of incongruity in how we all remember certain things. Whether ‘why’ we remember something differently to someone else is because of the inherent difference in the way we each understand things i.e. because we have had different experiences to each other, and therefore different views about things; OR whether it is because someone might we have loaded a question that begs us to remember something that didn’t necessarily occur (something about which we will hear more about in a minute)… The fact remains that these inconsistencies pop-up more frequently than many of us usually care to notice.
In fact, I sometimes wonder whether there is ever any particular ‘point’ that two people – each standing in a slightly different position to the other and, thus, viewing the ‘point’ from another slightly different perspective – could ever completely agree upon? No doubt I’d like to once again to draw your attention to the opening chapter in Bertrand Russell’s book, entitled “The Problems Of Philosophy…”
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IS there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? This question, which at first sight might not seem difficult, is really one of the most difficult that can be asked. When we have realized the obstacles in the way of a straightforward and confident answer, we shall be well launched on the study of philosophy — for philosophy is merely the attempt to answer such ultimate questions, not carelessly and dogmatically, as we do in ordinary life and even in the sciences, but critically after exploring all that makes such questions puzzling, and after realizing all the vagueness and confusion that underlie our ordinary ideas.
In daily life, we assume as certain many things which, on a closer scrutiny, are found to be so full of apparent contradictions that only a great amount of thought enables us to know what it is that we really may believe. In the search for certainty, it is natural to begin with our present experiences, and in some sense, no doubt, knowledge is to be derived from them. But any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong. It seems to me that I am now sitting in a chair, at a table of a certain shape, on which I see sheets of paper with writing or print. By turning my head I see out of the window buildings and clouds and the sun. I believe that the sun is about ninety-three million miles from the earth; that it is a hot globe many times bigger than the earth; that, owing to the earth’s rotation, it rises every morning, and will continue to do so for an indefinite time in the future. I believe that, if any other normal person comes into my room, he will see the same chairs and tables and books and papers as I see, and that the table which I see is the same as the table which I feel pressing against my arm. All this seems to be so evident as to be hardly worth stating, except in answer to a man who doubts whether I know anything. Yet all this may be reasonably doubted, and all of it requires much careful discussion before we can be sure that we have stated it in a form that is wholly true.
To make our difficulties plain, let us concentrate attention on the table. To the eye it is oblong, brown and shiny, to the touch it is smooth and cool and hard; when I tap it, it gives out a wooden sound. Any one else who sees and feels and hears the table will agree with this description, so that it might seem as if no difficulty would arise; but as soon as we try to be more precise our troubles begin. Although I believe that the table is ‘really’ of the same colour all over, the parts that reflect the light look much brighter than the other parts, and some parts look white because of reflected light. I know that, if I move, the parts that reflect the light will be different, so that the apparent distribution of colours on the table will change. It follows that if several people are looking at the table at the same moment, no two of them will see exactly the same distribution of colours, because no two can see it from exactly the same point of view, and any change in the point of view makes some change in the way the light is reflected.
For most practical purposes these differences are unimportant, but to the painter they are all-important: the painter has to unlearn the habit of thinking that things seem to have the colour which common sense says they ‘really’ have, and to learn the habit of seeing things as they appear. Here we have already the beginning of one of the distinctions that cause most trouble in philosophy — the distinction between ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’, between what things seem to be and what they are. The painter wants to know what things seem to be, the practical man and the philosopher want to know what they are; but the philosopher’s wish to know this is stronger than the practical man’s, and is more troubled by knowledge as to the difficulties of answering the question.
To return to the table. It is evident from what we have found, that there is no colour which preeminently appears to be the colour of the table, or even of any one particular part of the table — it appears to be of different colours from different points of view, and there is no reason for regarding some of these as more really its colour than others. And we know that even from a given point of view the colour will seem different by artificial light, or to a colour-blind man, or to a man wearing blue spectacles, while in the dark there will be no colour at all, though to touch and hearing the table will be unchanged. This colour is not something which is inherent in the table, but something depending upon the table and the spectator and the way the light falls on the table. When, in ordinary life, we speak of the colour of the table, we only mean the sort of colour which it will seem to have to a normal spectator from an ordinary point of view under usual conditions of light. But the other colours which appear under other conditions have just as good a right to be considered real; and therefore, to avoid favouritism, we are compelled to deny that, in itself, the table has any one particular colour.
The same thing applies to the texture. With the naked eye one can see the gram, but otherwise the table looks smooth and even. If we looked at it through a microscope, we should see roughnesses and hills and valleys, and all sorts of differences that are imperceptible to the naked eye. Which of these is the ‘real’ table? We are naturally tempted to say that what we see through the microscope is more real, but that in turn would be changed by a still more powerful microscope. If, then, we cannot trust what we see with the naked eye, why should we trust what we see through a microscope? Thus, again, the confidence in our senses with which we began deserts us.
The shape of the table is no better. We are all in the habit of judging as to the ‘real’ shapes of things, and we do this so unreflectingly that we come to think we actually see the real shapes. But, in fact, as we all have to learn if we try to draw, a given thing looks different in shape from every different point of view. If our table is ‘really’ rectangular, it will look, from almost all points of view, as if it had two acute angles and two obtuse angles. If opposite sides are parallel, they will look as if they converged to a point away from the spectator; if they are of equal length, they will look as if the nearer side were longer. All these things are not commonly noticed in looking at a table, because experience has taught us to construct the ‘real’ shape from the apparent shape, and the ‘real’ shape is what interests us as practical men. But the ‘real’ shape is not what we see; it is something inferred from what we see. And what we see is constantly changing in shape as we, move about the room; so that here again the senses seem not to give us the truth about the table itself, but only about the appearance of the table.
Similar difficulties arise when we consider the sense of touch. It is true that the table always gives us a sensation of hardness, and we feel that it resists pressure. But the sensation we obtain depends upon how hard we press the table and also upon what part of the body we press with; thus the various sensations due to various pressures or various parts of the body cannot be supposed to reveal directly any definite property of the table, but at most to be signs of some property which perhaps causes all the sensations, but is not actually apparent in any of them. And the same applies still more obviously to the sounds which can be elicited by rapping the table.
Thus it becomes evident that the real table, if there is one, is not the same as what we immediately experience by sight or touch or hearing. The real table, if there is one, is not immediately known to us at all, but must be an inference from what is immediately known. Hence, two very difficult questions at once arise; namely, (1) Is there a real table at all? (2) If so, what sort of object can it be?
It will help us in considering these questions to have a few simple terms of which the meaning is definite and clear. Let us give the name of ‘sense-data’ to the things that are immediately known in sensation: such things as colours, sounds, smells, hardnesses, roughnesses, and so on. We shall give the name ‘sensation’ to the experience of being immediately aware of these things. Thus, whenever we see a colour, we have a sensation of the colour, but the colour itself is a sense-datum, not a sensation. The colour is that of which we are immediately aware, and the awareness itself is the sensation. It is plain that if we are to know anything about the table, it must be by means of the sense-data — brown colour, oblong shape, smoothness, etc. — which we associate with the table; but, for the reasons which have been given, we cannot say that the table is the sense-data, or even that the sense-data are directly properties of the table. Thus a problem arises as to the relation of the sense-data to the real table, supposing there is such a thing.
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But beside all the differences in perception (which are part of the game of ‘delusion’ that we all so regularly take part in), along with the minor distortions in memory that we all – myself included – incorporate into our minds’ cycles… I still get a bit concerned when I notice someone remembering something in such a way that really disfigures what actually happened… AND I especially abhor it when I notice this type of disfiguration occurring in relation to questioning someone else’s integrity, such as in court of law, or with a police investigation, etc… Or worse still, when it scared face surfaces in the relation to international conflicts where thousands of people are dying and/or being made to suffer over some dispute about who was there first, or who owns what, or who wants what… !?!?
In fact, so as to avoid making any such blunders myself, I have gotten into a habit of continually checking my own memories with what I hear going on around me, cross referencing them with other memories I have had and/or even with memories that other people voice, so as to assimilate them together into a census that allows the facts to flow in a honest continuity – of sorts – with the facts, situations and temperaments of all those involved. And, if I ever find myself unable to deduce whether some type of accusation is within natural accord with a particular setting and with the people involved, I will usually refrain from commenting either way, as I believe it is better to be quite than unduly partake in another’s impeachment. I – for one – know that I am far from perfect.
And that especially goes for all types of propaganda perpetrated by any type of media dissemination i.e. radio, television, newspaper, internet, etc… Modern psychology has shown those, who care to listen to it, that our minds are so open to suggestion… And in order to guard against being misled into actions that give rise to disputes or civil unrest, even wars, we need to know everything we can about how our own mind/brain/body/environmental continuum works, so as to avoid slipping into dangerous habits of being/living… Because if we slip into these habits, habit’s that can never be justified with any certitude or credulity other than their own belief systems and egocentric views about why something might be right OR even wrong… Then we’re prone to persecuting the people who are innocent… And not addressing those who are, in fact, guilty… Even if it is all of us.
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Mind Changers – Elizabeth Loftus & Eye Witness Testimony
Elizabeth Loftus is the highest-ranking female in the list of top 100 psychologists. She’s gained world-wide renown for her experiments showing that memory, far from being an accurate record, is influenced by subsequent exposure to information and events and is re-constituted according to the biases these create.
Claudia Hammond meets the creator of several classic experiments, who broke new ground with the filmed simulations of road accidents she showed to subjects in the 1970s. These studies revealed that witness reports of the same incident varied according to the wording used by the questioner, giving rise to the development of the ‘cognitive interview’ – witness-led it avoids questioner-bias. Loftus’ work has changed the way witnesses are dealt with throughout the legal system.
Having shown that existing memories can be altered, Loftus was inspired to try to implant a whole false memory by the rise in cases of ‘recovered’ memories of violence and abuse in childhood. Her ‘Lost in the Mall’ and ‘Bugs Bunny’ studies proved that she could – in 30% of subjects – make them believe something that had never happened was part of their childhood history.
Loftus has inspired much work in the field of memory, including that of Barbara Tversky, on how memory reflects the spin put on a story.
Lorraine Hope, of Portsmouth University, has used the Cognitive Interview to develop the Self-Administered Interview (SAI), trialled by Greater Manchester Police. Steve Retford of their Major Incident Team is convinced of its benefits.
Loftus’ former friends and teachers at Stanford – Gordon Bower, Lee Ross and Brian Wandell – remember a fun-loving and forceful young woman, while Gillian Cohen reviews her influence in the UK.
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To find out where I sourced this BBC documentary from, please click here.
Or to find out more about Bertrand Russell, please click here.
May 15, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 5, 2011
I remember a very long time ago i.e. 25 years or so, I read a vivid work of science fiction by Issac Asimov while I was at school. It was called “I Robot” and was a collection of several short stories about the moral interactions between humans and robots along with resulting conundrums that would manifest. It was a particularly good read, I seem to remember, and enjoyed the ideas it presented in hindsight. In fact it made me think quite a bit about artificial intelligence (AI)… Though I was still rather unversed in what AI actually was… In fact, for that matter, I was even unversed in understanding what and who this “I” was at that time.
I mean… For me to even produce a list of functions that a robot would have to fulfill in order to become “human-like” was a daunting task… Especially when I began doing so on my then novelty of a computer, the ZX Spectrum. To be honest, the games that came with the machine i.e. Hungry Horace, Horace Goes Skiing, Horace and the Spiders, etc… left me somewhat wondering whether computers/robots would ever get as far as biological organisms had done. But that was then… And this is now.
So when articles pop up regarding artificial intelligence, talking about the way in which robots develop their behaviour, I jump at the opportunity to digest these insights and ponder on whether they i.e. robots, might well one day surpass most biological organisms here on Earth in both form, function and intelligence. In fact, I have already noted several interesting pointers that sufficiently demonstrate that our mechanoid counterparts are already well on the way to developing an artificial intelligence all of their own (see “TED Talks – Henry Markram Builds A Brain In A Supercomputer” and “Self-Organized Adaptation Of A Simple Neural Circuit Enables Complex Robot Behavior“)… So would it surprise if we one saw natural selection cleaning up robotic behavior into ever more refined modes of altruism? In fact… Would it be so surprising, even, if one day we saw robots evolving too? Well… Apparently, it’s already happening.
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Robots Evolve To Look Out For Their Own
A robot must protect its own existence.
This mid-20th-century dictate to the robotic clade from science fiction author and biochemist Isaac Asimov seems cleanly in step with Darwinian theory and the biological world of survival of the fittest.
But as scientists continue to witness animals and other organisms habitually sacrificing themselves for the greater good of their colony or kin, the picture of self-interested behavior in the natural world has become murkier. Might robots also learn to cooperate for the betterment of their own kind?
They already have. Meet the Alice bots. Some robots have been programmed to help each other out, but these automatons have “evolved” over generations to be more helpful—that is, to like robots.
The version of this behavior in animals is known as Hamilton’s rule of kin selection. Put forth by biologist W. D. Hamilton in the 1960s, it aimed to explain why organisms—from ants to humans—would sometimes help others at their own expense. This altruistic impulse—to spend time, energy and resources on others—is thought to be especially strong toward those who might help pass along our own genes. But just how close of kin does a person have to be for us to be compelled, under Hamilton’s rule, to help out?
Given the complexity of animal environments and actions and their relatively slow evolution, it’s been difficult to actually demonstrate Hamilton’s rule in organisms.
Cue the robots.
Researchers in Switzerland developed a band of small, rolling robots equipped with sensors and their own “genetic code”—a unique string of 33 1′s and 0′s functioning as individual “neurons” to determine sensor use and behavior—and tasked with foraging for small “food” objects and pushing them to a designated area. Those robots that failed to collect the objects were weeded out of the “gene pool” by the research team, whereas those that were successful could choose whether to collect the food object for themselves or share it with another robot.
“Over hundreds of generations,” the researchers concluded, “we show that Hamilton’s rule always accurately predicts the minimum relatedness necessary for altruism to evolve,” they wrote in a new paper describing the results, published online May 3 in PLoS Biology. The levels of relatedness that the researchers tested included full clones as well as the digital equivalent of siblings, cousins and non-kin.
“This study mirrors Hamilton’s rule remarkably well to explain when an altruistic gene is passed on from one generation to the next, and when one is not,” Laurent Keller, a biologist at the University of Lausanne and co-author of the new study, said in a prepared statement.
Each test consisted of 500 generations of eight robots. To mimic what might happen in nature, the successful robots from each generation were “randomly assorted and subjected to crossovers and mutations…forming the next generation,” the researchers explained. And although the 33 “genes” were randomly distributed at first, “the robots’ performance rapidly increased over the 500 generations of selection,” the researchers noted. And along with acuity at collecting the food, “the level of altruism also rapidly changed over generations,” with those robots around more closely “related” individuals becoming the most altruistic.
Aside from demonstrating Hamilton’s rule in a quantifiable—if artificial—system, the work also shows that “kin selection does not require specific genes devoted to encode altruism or sophisticated cognitive abilities, as the neuronal network of our robots comprised only 33 neurons,” the researchers noted in their paper.
“We have been able to take this experiment and extract an algorithm that we can use to evolve cooperation in any type of robot,” Dario Floreano, a robotics professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and co-author of the new study, said in a prepared statement. Any type of robot? Does that mean it’s time to run for the hills?
Nope—should the bots decide to discard the other two of Asimov’s laws for robots (obeying humans and not harming them), they’ll surely be able to find us there. “We are using this altruism algorithm to improve the control system of our flying robots, and we see that it allows them to effectively collaborate and fly in swarm formation more successfully.”
by Katherine Harmon
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To find out where I sourced this article from, please click here.
Or to read other articles that Katherine Harmon has writen, please click here.
And to find out more about the British evolutionary biologist, William Hamilton, please click here.
Plus… To find out how we can test for his rule on evolutionary altruism, please click here.