Back to the program.
What is emergence and are swarm-bots emergent?
Hugues Bersini
IRIDIA, Université Libre de Bruxelles


In a previous lecture, I insisted on the need to substitute any human observer by a mechanical or natural observer in order to "scientifically" characterize an observed collective phenomenon as "emergent". In this lecture, still defending this viewpoint, I will take opportunity of the Swam-Bots project to justify this position and to discuss why, in my view, the s-bots, although performing very interesting collective behaviour (just like a car or a computer out of their parts), cannot be characterized as emergent due to the essential role played by the "human observer and engineer". In contrast, I will present some recent computer simulations of mine in which agents learn to collectively cooperate with no need for any human intervention. The behaviour is emergent in the "eyes" of the "blind watchmaker" to paraphrase Richard Dawkins famous expression. The "mechanical observer" here is simply natural selection favouring agents which cooperate in a stigmergical way.