Edge: BEYOND COMPUTATION


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BEYOND COMPUTATION: A TALK WITH RODNEY BROOKS [6.5.02]

Maybe there's something beyond computation in the sense that we don't understand and we can't describe what's going on inside living systems using computation only. When we build computational models of living systems—such as a self-evolving system or an artificial immunology system—they're not as robust or rich as real living systems. Maybe we're missing something, but what could that something be?

Introduction

Rodney Brooks, a computer scientists and Director of the MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is looking for something beyond computation in the sense that we don't understand and we can't describe what's going on inside living systems using computation only. When we build computational models of living systems, such as a self-evolving system or an artificial immunology system — they're not as robust or rich as real living systems.

"Maybe we're missing something," Brooks asks, "but what could that something be?" He is puzzled that we've got all these biological metaphors that we're playing around with—artificial immunology systems, building robots that appear lifelike—but none of them come close to real biological systems in robustness and in performance. "What I'm worrying about," he says, "is that perhaps in looking at biological systems we're missing something that's always in there. You might be tempted to call it an essence of life, but I'm not talking about anything outside of biology or chemistry."


JB


RODNEY A. BROOKS is Director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Fujitsu Professor of Computer Science. He is also Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of iRobot, a 120-person robotics company. Dr. Brooks also appeared as one of the four principals in the Errol Morris movie Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (named after one of his papers in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society) in 1997 (one of Roger Ebert's 10 best films of the year). He is the author of Flesh and Machines.

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