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NEW TIES to evolve first artificial society

NEW TIES will grow an artificial society using computer programming that develops agents, or adaptive, artificial beings, which evolve and have independent behaviours within a computer simulation.

The 1.55 million project funded by the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme was officially launched on Wednesday, 13 April 2005 during the AISB2005 convention at the University of Hertfordshire. The project is the first of its kind to develop a large-scale and highly complex virtual, computer-based society. The results of the project could have larger implications for the design of information technologies, evolutionary computing systems, agent-based computer programming, artificial intelligence and linguistics. The NEW TIES project uses a large, distributed computer infrastructure and shares a peer-to-peer platform that enables the development of a highly complex, virtual society made up of individual computer-based agents, much like characters in popular computer games such as SIMS or Black and White; the significant difference is that the NEW TIES agents learn and evolve. The project's goal is to evolve an artificial society capable of exploring and understanding its environment through cooperation and interaction. The agents, or artificial individuals, are sufficiently complex and their environment is so demanding that the agents will need to develop a communication system or language and learn how to cooperate in order to survive. The agents will develop advanced skills, such as the ability to communicate, by means of individual learning, evolutionary learning, and social learning. One of the project's major innovations is to develop social learning through passing knowledge from one agent to another, for example, by mothers' teaching their children'. "Until now a project like this was impractical and the stuff of science fiction, no one thought that it would be possible to do. But now that the massive computing resources needed to grow an artificial society are much more accessible and work on the evolution of language has progressed, we are now in a position to attempt to grow an artificial society of this scale," says Nigel Gilbert, of the sociology department at the University of Surrey and a project partner. "This project is the next step on in the study of the evolution of language," Gilbert adds. The field of social simulation, which uses computer programming to experiment on social systems, has grown considerably since its founding in the early 1990s but due to computing constraints, experiments have involved developing simple social systems. NEWS TIES' use of state-of-the-art computing technology will enable the experiment to build a large population of highly complex agents. The experiment outcomes may include evidence of an emergent culture developed by the computer programme's agents. "One of the greatest scientific challenges of this project is not only to evolve a language but to understand it," says Gusz Eiben, department head, computer science at the Free University Amsterdam and the project's coordinator. "If language evolution indeed takes off as we hope, how can we understand what the individuals discuss with each other? We intend to put up a number of monitors to look how language is developing and try to look not only at the end result, but also at the process. Thereby, we hope to be able to keep up with the language's evolution." New and Emergent World Models Through Individual, Evolutionary and Social Learning (NEW TIES) is a three-year collaborative research project headed by leading researchers in artificial intelligence, language evolution, agent-based simulation and evolutionary computing. The NEW TIES partners are the Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands; University of Surrey, U.K.; Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary; Napier University, U.K.; and Tilburg University; The Netherlands. For more information contact the NEW TIES project coordinator:,Prof. Dr. A.E. Eiben,Free University Amsterdam,Phone: +31-(0)20-5987758,Fax: +31-(0)20-5987653,Email: gusz@cs.vu.nl,or,Dr. Nigel Gilbert, project partner,University of Surrey,Phone: +44-(0)1483-689173,Fax: +44-(0)1483-689551,Email: n.gilbert@surrey.ac.uk1. The European Union Framework Programme provides funding for collaborative research and development projects and the development of research infrastructure in support of strategic objectives; to strengthening the scientific and technological bases of industry, and to encourage its international competitiveness while promoting research activities in support of other EU policies. The programme is the third largest item in the EU budget and has 11.3 billion earmarked for research projects. 2. The 6th Framework Programme (2002-2006) aims to develop the European Research Area (ERA) by supporting collaborative initiatives that strengthen Europe's science and technology research and by promoting research that has long term structural impact. 3. NEW TIES has project funding of 1.55 million over 36 months beginning in September 2004. 4. The AISB2005 is the annual convention of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour and is the largest organisation of its kind in the United Kingdom. The society, started in 1964, has an international membership rooted in both academia and industry. 5. The NEW TIES project website http://www.new-ties.org

Keywords

Social Simulation