Opening Keynote Lecture

by Dario Floreano


Evolution of altruistic cooperation and communication in robot societies

Altruistic cooperation is a situation where individuals that cooperate pay a cost, but the society as a whole benefits. Although a few theories exist of the mechanisms that may have led to altruistic cooperation in some animal societies, the experimental evidence is rare and often indirect. Understanding the conditions that may have favored the evolution of altruistic cooperation could also help to understand how communication may have emerged because communication very often implies a cost for the individuals. We investigated the evolutionary conditions that may have favored the emergence of altruistic cooperation and communication by means of synthetic evolution with mobile robots. We evolve colonies of robots by varying the amount of genetic relatedness (homogeneous vs. heterogeneous) and the level of selection (individual vs. colony). In a first set of experiments we study colonies of sugar-cube robots engaged in a foraging task where cooperation brings an advantage to the colony at the expense of the individuals that decide to cooperate. In a second set of experiments we study colonies of "expressive" robots exposed to food and danger sources that cannot be uniquely be identified at distance. Here, communication of the source type brings an advantage to the colony at the expense of the individuals that decide to tell which is the food or poison. The results shed light on the conditions that may have favored the evolution of altruistic cooperation and communication and provide guidelines for evolving robot societies that are expected to display the same type of cooperation.