Something new, something different

Hal Feinstein hfeinstein at
Sun Jan 16 10:52:11 CST 2005

The Talking Heads experiment studied the evolution of a shared lexicon 
in a population of embodied software agents. The agents developed their 
vocabulary by observing a scene through digital cameras and 
communicating about what they had seen together. To add an extra level 
of complexity to their task, agents were able to move freely between 
different computer installations located in different parts of the 
world. Members of the public were able to influence the course of the 
experiment by logging on to the Talking Heads website to create and 
teach their own agents.
The Project Idea: 

Assume a group of small computers each connected to a high frequency 
radio.  The environment each senses are characteristics of the HF 
spectrum: channel occupancy, signal strength, noise and perhaps signal 
type and classification. Each can change frequency, listen and transmit 
some information which might start as simple
off-on keying and evolve to tones busts or a simple digital information 
exchange.  The goal of these simple computer/radio is to lean how to 
maintain a reliable high frequency link in order to pass messages.  
Using ideas of evolution and refinement the radio test strategies that 
improve connection reliability by retaining refinements and discarding 
lesser performing strategies.  Installed in each's strategy, a "prime 
directive,"  that at all costs  the units must never become totally 
disconnected, but might be allowed to  break into more effective smaller 
groups  to promote innovation.  A second "directive" is that cooperating 
as a group  vastly aids success.   Being able to sense and influence 
their environment and the intuitive knowledge that  groups are 
beneficial,  the computers/radios would find each other in the RF 
spectrum and evolve a simple language to communicate ideas that  
improving link reliability and determining better ways to organize.  
Devising a better strategy would be a kind of "group grope." Receiving 
these ideas via HF a computer/radio  would incorporate them into their 
strategies while perhaps also discarding substrategies that were not as 
successful.   The language between them would also evolve, moving away 
from easy starter notions to expressing more complex ideas. 

Whats in it for us?   I think it would be a blast watch these things 
talk between themselves and figuring out what they are saying.  If we do 
the programming right we will see the computers/radio create ideas and 
use logic very different from the way you and I reason about common 
tasks.  This has been the experience with some other machine reasoning  
experiments I've read about.  The key for us will be learning how to 
program the computer/radios not to be good operators but  to *learn* to 
be progressively excellent operators. We've got to create the tools that 
empower the radio/computers to continually get better at what they do 
without us saying how to do it.

I know some people will say this is "way out there" or too "sci fi."  
But this is fundamentally  an engineering problem and requires the same 
kind of organized thinking, conceptualization  and building skills as 
other  R&D engineering projects. 

Is it practical?   It would not be very  expensive;  computer controlled 
radios are pretty common these days.  Programming would be done in C 
and/or VB on a PC  and a sound card might be used for the language 
exchanges.  The most challenging thing for the "creators" (us) would be 
devising a framework to allow the radio/computers to build, test and 
communicate their own best strategies and in giving the radio/computers 
the "gift of speech" without specifying how to talk or what to say.   I 
don't believe anything like this has been done before, certainly not by 
amateur radio operators and it would take us into a whole new technology 
that I think is going to be as common place in 20 years as the Internet 
is today.

--hal (wb3kdu)

PS  Thanks to Bob, w8mau for the firbe demo at tacos.

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