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Emergent awareness from minimal collectives

Project description

Teamwork makes the dream work: emergent collaborative awareness among artificial agents

Living organisms must be both self-aware and aware of other organisms to demonstrate effective cooperative behaviours. When it comes to AI applications, no suitable framework exists that does not limit individual agents’ heterogeneity and enables global awareness, without losing local awareness of individual artificial agents. This hinders deployment of artificial agents capable of complex cooperative behaviours. The EU-funded EMERGE project will enable emergent collaborative awareness among collectives of minimal artificial beings without predefined protocols. It will support complex, distributed and flexible systems exhibiting collaboration, self-regulation and interoperability. EMERGE’s framework will offer insight that will foster allocation of awareness to optimise achievement of desired outcomes.


Awareness in biological agents has converging definitions when considering local states describing content-related consciousness from an agent-specific perspective. However, it becomes highly debated when it comes to global states. The issue magnifies when considering collectives of artificial agents. Several frameworks exist, all unsatisfactory in the limitations posed to agents’ heterogeneity and disappearance of the local self into an integrated state. Ultimately, existing frameworks are ineffective in explaining, facilitating, and supporting cooperative behaviours in artificial agents. The lack of a compelling theory of global awareness in AI is currently a significant barrier to the effective deployment of artificial agents in the real world. EMERGE tackles this grand challenge by introducing the novel concept of collaborative awareness for collectives of minimal artificial beings. We will investigate how simple agents can develop a representation of their mutual existence, environment, and cooperative behaviour towards the realization of tasks and goals. EMERGE builds on a scenario of artificial beings with no shared language and constrained individual capabilities, which nevertheless leads to high-complexity behaviours at the collective level. Collaborative awareness becomes an emergent process supporting complex, distributed, and loosely coupled systems capable of high degrees of collaboration, self-regulation, and interoperability without pre-defined protocols. EMERGE delivers a philosophical, mathematical, and technological framework that enables us to know how and where to allocate awareness to achieve a goal through the collective optimally. We will demonstrate EMERGE concepts on robotic use cases, with hints of broader applicability of the framework to Internet of Things, pervasive computing, nanotechnologies. We will also investigate the ethical implications of collaborative awareness, focusing on moral responsibility, vulnerabilities, and trust.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 046 551,00
Lungarno pacinotti 43/44
56126 Pisa

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Centro (IT) Toscana Pisa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,25

Participants (3)

Partners (1)