Artificial ontogenesis: a connectionist model of development
Spratling, Michael William
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This thesis suggests that ontogenetic adaptive processes are important for generating intelligent beha- viour. It is thus proposed that such processes, as they occur in nature, need to be modelled and that such a model could be used for generating artificial intelligence, and specifically robotic intelligence. Hence, this thesis focuses on how mechanisms of intelligence are specified.A major problem in robotics is the need to predefine the behaviour to be followed by the robot. This makes design intractable for all but the simplest tasks and results in controllers that are specific to that particular task and are brittle when faced with unforeseen circumstances. These problems can be resolved by providing the robot with the ability to adapt the rules it follows and to autonomously create new rules for controlling behaviour. This solution thus depends on the predefinition of how rules to control behaviour are to be learnt rather than the predefinition of rules for behaviour themselves.Learning new rules for behaviour occurs during the developmental process in biology. Changes in the structure of the cerebral 'cortex underly behavioural and cognitive development throughout infancy and beyond. The uniformity of the neocortex suggests that there is significant computational uniformity across the cortex resulting from uniform mechanisms of development, and holds out the possibility of a general model of development. Development is an interactive process between genetic predefinition and environmental influences. This interactive process is constructive: qualitatively new behaviours are learnt by using simple abilities as a basis for learning more complex ones. The progressive increase in competence, provided by development, may be essential to make tractable the process of acquiring higher -level abilities.While simple behaviours can be triggered by direct sensory cues, more complex behaviours require the use of more abstract representations. There is thus a need to find representations at the correct level of abstraction appropriate to controlling each ability. In addition, finding the correct level of abstrac- tion makes tractable the task of associating sensory representations with motor actions. Hence, finding appropriate representations is important both for learning behaviours and for controlling behaviours. Representations can be found by recording regularities in the world or by discovering re- occurring pat- terns through repeated sensory -motor interactions. By recording regularities within the representations thus formed, more abstract representations can be found. Simple, non -abstract, representations thus provide the basis for learning more complex, abstract, representations.A modular neural network architecture is presented as a basis for a model of development. The pat- tern of activity of the neurons in an individual network constitutes a representation of the input to that network. This representation is formed through a novel, unsupervised, learning algorithm which adjusts the synaptic weights to improve the representation of the input data. Representations are formed by neurons learning to respond to correlated sets of inputs. Neurons thus became feature detectors or pat- tern recognisers. Because the nodes respond to patterns of inputs they encode more abstract features of the input than are explicitly encoded in the input data itself. In this way simple representations provide the basis for learning more complex representations. The algorithm allows both more abstract represent- ations to be formed by associating correlated, coincident, features together, and invariant representations to be formed by associating correlated, sequential, features together.The algorithm robustly learns accurate and stable representations, in a format most appropriate to the structure of the input data received: it can represent both single and multiple input features in both the discrete and continuous domains, using either topologically or non -topologically organised nodes. The output of one neural network is used to provide inputs for other networks. The robustness of the algorithm enables each neural network to be implemented using an identical algorithm. This allows a modular `assembly' of neural networks to be used for learning more complex abilities: the output activations of a network can be used as the input to other networks which can then find representations of more abstract information within the same input data; and, by defining the output activations of neurons in certain networks to have behavioural consequences it is possible to learn sensory -motor associations, to enable sensory representations to be used to control behaviour.