Listening to Machines


How do you teach an AI to walk? Artificial Intelligence, as we typically use the term right now, means a computational system that learns through pattern-spotting and self-correction, so you don't so much teach it as create a setting in which it can teach itself. If you want an AI to walk, you provide a set of constraints -- gravity exists, bodies are made of connected parts, the ground pushes back when you push on it -- and give it a challenge, like moving a certain distance. Then you step back and let it learn, and often marvel at the results. A recent paper entitled "The Surprising Creativity of Digital Evolution," published by a conglomerate of European and North American researchers, is packed with technically correct AI-devised solutions to the locomotion problem that are also, by any traditional measure, wrong.

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