Hard to think that the tiny brain of a honey bee could hold so much promise in terms of directing autonomous flight. I would think studying the characteristics of migrating birds would have more impact on AI advances in this area.
Honey bees are GREAT models for AI for autonomous flight. Bees explore independently, looking for the best food source. When they come back to the hive, they "dance" to precisely communicate the best path to the abundance. It's fascinating and very complex.
If drones could work together, communicating like bees, they could be more effective and used in benign applications.
I always assumed the next great phase of industrialization is genetically engineering machines (based on existing plants/animals) that you would grow with seeds like a crop (and power with biomatter) rather than manufacture in a factory and power on carbon derived energy.
Insects are a perfect starting point, since they are simple enough for us to start understanding their operation and they are already autonomous. This is the perfect first step in this path. Only need to know enough about their operation to replace their original "programming" with ours. Insects are hardly "smart", but they are more than capable of carrying out simple tasks.
Of course, this is also how every sci-fi horror movie starts out.
It really is amazing to me what we can learn from "lower life forms." I was also skeptical but according to one web page (benefits-of-honey.com): The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.
And remember - these little guys aren't supposed to be able to fly if you calculate their wingspan to body mass ratio - so they obviously know something we don't!
Brains are a lot more complex than we think, and a tiny one like a honey bee might actually be tractible for analysis. Remember the human brain has around 100 billion neurons, with something like 10,000 interconnections per neuron. Something around one millionth that size might actually be technically doable.
On the other hand, the neurons are only the high speed processing capability of the brain. Hormones and neurotransmitter availability have a "bank switching" function and a training function that strongly affects the way the neurons think. They just operate at a slower speed (over a period of seconds instead of milliseconds). To say that a brain can be modeled without that added complexity is kidding ourselves. And we know so little of that chemically based functionality at this time. Really, we only know that it is there. We have little or no idea how it works or what it does, in an algorithmic sense.
The thing that concerns me is that an artificial brain will have its own ideas an desires. Before we can trust them, we not only have to learn how to duplicate them, we have to learn how to control them. By which I mean we have to learn how to keep them from making mistakes (we are very good at making mistakes) and how to make sure they are acting in our interests instead of competeing with us.
I agree that bees are a great model for AI. But I find it odd that some are assuming an artificial brain could have desires. First, there has to be somebody home, and there's no evidence that an artificial intelligence or an artificial brain (not the same thing) would have enough of a sense of self and individuality to have desires. Of course, this has been the subject of much debate in philosophy over the centuries, as well as more recently in robotics and sci-fi.
When I said that it would have its own desires, I didn't mean that it would necessarily have a sese of self and be acting in its own interests. I meant only that its choices may not be fully predictable. It therefore may be unreliable, or worse make choices that are dangerous to us. We have to remember, it may not do that out of a sense of self or in its own self interest. It may be simply be its unawareness that makes it dangerous. After all, most injuries caused by machines are not caused because the machine "tries" to hurt us or because the machine is trying to protect us, it is happening because the machine is "unaware". Brain like systems will be more flexible, but they add the element of unpredictability to that.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
The US Congress has extended an important tax credit for solar energy, a move that’s good news for future investments in this type of alternative energy and for many stakeholders in the solar industry.
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