Mutual aid in the robot kingdom

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Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
May 5 2011 17:13
Mutual aid in the robot kingdom
Waibel et. al. wrote:
One of the enduring puzzles in biology and the social sciences is the origin and persistence of altruism, whereby a behavior benefiting another individual incurs a direct cost for the individual performing the altruistic action. This apparent paradox was resolved by Hamilton's theory, known as kin selection, which states that individuals can transmit copies of their own genes not only directly through their own reproduction but also indirectly by favoring the reproduction of kin, such as siblings or cousins. While many studies have provided qualitative support for kin selection theory, quantitative tests have not yet been possible due to the difficulty of quantifying the costs and benefits of helping acts. In this study, we conduct simulations with the help of a simulated system of foraging robots to manipulate the costs and benefits of altruism and determine the conditions under which altruism evolves. By conducting experimental evolution over hundreds of generations of selection in populations with different costs and benefits of altruistic behavior, we show that kin selection theory always accurately predicts the minimum relatedness necessary for altruism to evolve. This high accuracy is remarkable given the presence of pleiotropic and epistatic effects, as well as mutations with strong effects on behavior and fitness. In addition to providing a quantitative test of kin selection theory in a system with a complex mapping between genotype and phenotype, this study reveals that a fundamental principle of natural selection also applies to synthetic organisms when these have heritable properties.

[url=]PLoS Biology[/url].

Edit: fixed link.

Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
May 5 2011 17:47

There is something on this I think from Darwin 150 years ago and Kropotkin and Pannekoek also picked up on it later.

The actual materialistic mechanism for non kin selected altruistic behaviour had been a bit of a puzzle for a while until it was resolved experimentally and mathematically fairly recently with computer generated game theory.

A relief for the Arabian Babblers no doubt.


The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable—namely, that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts,5 would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as

5 Sir B. Brodie, after observing that man is a social animal ('Psychological Enquiries,' 1854, p. 192), asks the pregnant question, "ought not this to settle the disputed question as to the existence of a moral sense?" Similar ideas have probably occurred to many persons, as they did long ago to Marcus Aurelius. Mr. J. S. Mill speaks, in his celebrated work, 'Utilitarianism,' (1864, p. 46), of the social feelings as a "powerful natural sentiment," and as "the natural basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality;" but on the previous page he says, "if, as is my own belief, the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that reason less natural." It is with hesitation that I venture to differ from so profound a thinker, but it can hardly be disputed that the social feelings are instinctive or innate in the lower animals; and why should they not be so in man? Mr. Bain (see, for instance, 'The Emotions and the Will,' 1865, p. 481) and others believe that the moral sense is acquired by each individual during his lifetime. On the general theory of evolution this is at least extremely improbable.

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its intellectual powers had become as well developed, or nearly as well developed, as in man. For, firstly, the social instincts lead an animal to take pleasure in the society of its fellows, to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them. The services may be of a definite and evidently instinctive nature; or there may be only a wish and readiness, as with most of the higher social animals, to aid their fellows in certain general ways. But these feelings and services are by no means extended to all the individuals of the same species, only to those of the same association. Secondly, as soon as the mental faculties had become highly developed, images of all past actions and motives would be incessantly passing through the brain of each individual; and that feeling of dissatisfaction which invariably results, as we shall hereafter see, from any unsatisfied instinct, would arise, as often as it was perceived that the enduring and always present social instinct had yielded to some other instinct, at the time stronger, but neither enduring in its nature, nor leaving behind it a very vivid impression. It is clear that many instinctive desires, such as that of hunger, are in their nature of short duration; and after being satisfied are not readily or vividly recalled. Thirdly, after the power of language had been acquired and the wishes of the members of the same community could be distinctly expressed, the common opinion how each member ought to act for the public good, would naturally become to a large extent the guide to action. But the social instincts would still give the impulse to act for the good of the community, this impulse being strengthened, directed, and sometimes even deflected by public opinion, the power of which rests, as we shall presently see, on instinctive sympathy. Lastly, habit in the individual would ultimately play a very
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important part in guiding the conduct of each member; for the social instincts and impulses, like all other instincts, would be greatly strengthened by habit, as would obedience to the wishes and judgment of the community. These several subordinate propositions must now be discussed; and some of them at considerable length.

It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours. In the same manner as various animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely different objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different lines of conduct. If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering. Nevertheless the bee, or any other social animal, would in our supposed case gain, as it appears to me, some feeling of right and wrong, or a conscience. For each individual would have an inward sense of possessing certain stronger or more enduring instincts, and other less strong or enduring; so that there would often be a struggle which impulse should be followed; and satisfaction or dissatisfaction would be felt, as past impressions were compared during their incessant passage through the mind. In this case an inward monitor would tell the animal that it would have been better to have followed the one impulse rather than the other. The one course ought to have been followed: the one
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would have been right and the other wrong; but to these terms I shall have to recur.
Sociability.—Animals of many kinds are social; we find even distinct species living together, as with some American monkeys, and with the united flocks of rooks, jackdaws, and starlings. Man shows the same feeling in his strong love for the dog, which the dog returns with interest. Every one must have noticed how miserable horses, dogs, sheep, &c. are when separated from their companions; and what affection at least the two former kinds show on their reunion. It is curious to speculate on the feelings of a dog, who will rest peacefully for hours in a room with his master or any of the family, without the least notice being taken of him; but if left for a short time by himself, barks or howls dismally. We will confine our attention to the higher social animals, excluding insects, although these aid each other in many important ways. The most common service which the higher animals perform for each other, is the warning each other of danger by means of the united senses of all. Every sportsman knows, as Dr. Jaeger remarks,6 how difficult it is to approach animals in a herd or troop. Wild horses and cattle do not, I believe, make any danger-signal; but the attitude of any one who first discovers an enemy, warns the others. Rabbits stamp loudly on the ground with their hind-feet as a signal; sheep and chamois do the same, but with their fore-feet, uttering likewise a whistle. Many birds and some mammals post sentinels, which in the case of seals are said7 generally to be the females. The leader of a troop of monkeys acts as the sentinel, and utters cries expressive both of danger and of safety.8 Social
6 'Die Darwine'sche Theorie,' s, 101.
7 Mr. R. Browne in 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1868, p. 409.
8 Brehm, 'Thierleben,' B. i. 1864, s. 52, 79. For the case of the
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animals perform many little services for each other: horses nibble, and cows lick each other, on any spot which itches: monkeys search for each other's external parasites; and Brehm states that after a troop of the Cercopithecus griseo-viridis has rushed through a thorny brake, each monkey stretches itself on a branch, and another monkey sitting by "conscientiously" examines its fur and extracts every thorn or burr.
Animals also render more important services to each other: thus wolves and some other beasts of prey hunt in packs, and aid each other in attacking their victims. Pelicans fish in concert. The Hamadryas baboons turn over stones to find insects, &c.; and when they come to a large one, as many as can stand round, turn it over together and share the booty. Social animals mutually defend each other. The males of some ruminants come to the front when there is danger and defend the herd with their horns. I shall also in a future chapter give cases of two young wild bulls attacking an old one in concert, and of two stallions together trying to drive away a third stallion from a troop of mares. Brehm encountered in Abyssinia a great troop of baboons which were crossing a valley: some had already ascended the opposite mountain, and some were still in the valley: the latter were attacked by the dogs, but the old males immediately hurried down from the rocks, and with mouths widely opened roared so fearfully, that the dogs precipitately retreated. They were again encouraged to the attack; but by this time all the baboons had re-ascended the heights, excepting a young one, about six
monkeys extracting thorns from each other, see s. 54. With respect to the Hamadryas turning over stones, the fact is given (s. 76) on the evidence of Alvarez, whose observations Brehm thinks quite trust-worthy. For the cases of the old male baboons attacking the dogs, see s. 79; and with respect to the eagle, s. 56.
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months old, who, loudly calling for aid, climbed on a block of rock and was surrounded. Now one of the largest males, a true hero, came down again from the mountain, slowly went to the young one, coaxed him, and triumphantly led him away—the dogs being too much astonished to make an attack. I cannot resist giving another scene which was witnessed by this same naturalist; an eagle seized a young Cercopithecus, which, by clinging to a branch, was not at once carried off; it cried loudly for assistance, upon which the other members of the troop with much uproar rushed to the rescue, surrounded the eagle, and pulled out so many feathers, that he no longer thought of his prey, but only how to escape. This eagle, as Brehm remarks, assuredly would never again attack a monkey in a troop.
It is certain that associated animals have a feeling of love for each other which is not felt by adult and non-social animals. How far in most cases they actually sympathise with each other's pains and pleasures is more doubtful, especially with respect to the latter. Mr. Buxton, however, who had excellent means of observation,9 states that his macaws, which lived free in Norfolk, took "an extravagant interest" in a pair with a nest, and whenever the female left it, she was surrounded by a troop "screaming horrible acclamations in her honour." It is often difficult to judge whether animals have any feeling for each other's sufferings. Who can say what cows feel, when they surround and stare intently on a dying or dead companion? That animals sometimes are far from feeling any sympathy is too certain; for they will expel a wounded animal from the herd, or gore or worry it to death. This is almost the blackest fact in natural………

And it drones on.

Actually that was basically Marx’s position in his Feuerbachian 1844 period ie that human beings or the species being or whatever were naturally communistic although then he didn’t have a materialistic Darwinist theory to back it up.

Strirner strangled the idea with his admittedly otherwise brilliant pre Freudian ‘Ego and his Own’.

Django's picture
Joined: 18-01-08
May 5 2011 21:18

Didn't Steve Jones write a pop-science 'refutation' of Kropotkin a few years back? I remember reading that it was poor ... Choccy probably knows more.