Nav: Home

Virtual predator is self-aware, behaves like living counterpart

March 01, 2018

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Scientists report in the journal eNeuro that they've built an artificially intelligent ocean predator that behaves a lot like the original flesh-and-blood organism on which it was modeled. The virtual creature, "Cyberslug," reacts to food and responds to members of its own kind much like the actual animal, the sea slug Pleurobranchaea californica, does.

Unlike most other AI entities, Cyberslug has a simple self-awareness, said University of Illinois molecular and integrative physiology professor Rhanor Gillette, who led the work with software engineer Mikhail Voloshin.

"That is, it relates its motivation and memories to its perception of the external world, and it reacts to information on the basis of how that information makes it feel," Gillette said.

Cyberslug knows when it's hungry, for example. It also has learned which other kinds of virtual sea slugs are yummy to eat and which are less desirable.

Sea slugs typically choose one of three responses when encountering another creature in the wild, Gillette said. "Do I eat it? Do I mate with it? Or do I flee?"

To make the right choice, they must be able sense their own internal state (Am I hungry?), get cues from their environment (How does it smell?) and remember past encounters (Did this thing sting me last time?).

"Their default response is avoidance, but hunger, sensation and learning together form their 'appetitive state,' and if that is high enough the sea slug will attack," Gillette said.

"When P. californica is super hungry, it will even attack a painful stimulus," he said. "And when the animal is not hungry, it usually will avoid even an appetitive stimulus. This is a cost-benefit decision." Cyberslug behaves the same way. (Run a Cyberslug simulation here.)

In previous work, Gillette and his colleagues worked out the brain circuitry that allows sea slugs to operate in the wild, "down to individual neurons," he said. To test the accuracy of their models, the researchers experimented with simple computer simulations. One of the first circuitry boards Voloshin built to represent the sea slug brain was housed in a plastic foam food takeout container.

The new model uses more sophisticated algorithms to simulate Cyberslug's competing goals and decision-making, Gillette said. Over time it learns what is good - and not so good - to bite. Just like P. californica, the more it eats, the more satiated it becomes and the more likely it is to avoid other creatures. But as hunger returns, Cyberslug becomes a less picky eater.

"I think the sea slug is a good model of the core ancient circuitry that is still there in our brains that is supporting all the higher cognitive qualities," Gillette said. "Now we have a model that's probably very much like the primitive ancestral brain. The next step is to add more circuitry to get enhanced sociality and cognition."
-end-
Local co-authors of the study also include medical information science professor Jeffrey Brown and graduate student Ekaterina Gribkova, of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois.

The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health supported this research.

Editor's notes:

To reach Rhanor Gillette, call 217-333-0328; email rhanor@life.illinois.edu.

The paper "Implementing goal-directed foraging decisions of a simpler nervous system in simulation" is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Sea Slug Articles:

A dam right across the North Sea
A 475-km-long dam between the north of Scotland and the west of Norway and another one of 160 km between the west point of France and the southwest of England could protect more than 25 million Europeans against the consequences of an expected sea level rise of several meters over the next few centuries.
A sea monster's genome
The giant squid is an elusive giant, but its secrets are about to be revealed.
Antibiotics from the sea
The team led by Prof. Christian Jogler of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has succeeded in cultivating several dozen marine bacteria in the laboratory -- bacteria that had previously been paid little attention.
What vision do we have for the deep sea?
The ocean hosts an inconceivable wealth of marine life, most of which remains unknown.
Getting glued in the sea
New bio-inspired hydrogels can act like superglue in highly ionic environments such as seawater, overcoming issues in currently available marine adhesives.
Slug, a stem cell regulator, keeps breast cells healthy by promoting repair of DNA damage
A new biomedical research study finds a transcription factor called Slug contributes to breast cell fitness by promoting efficient repair of DNA damage.
Sloppy sea urchins
Marine scientists discover an important, overlooked role sea urchins play in the kelp forest ecosystem.
Egg-sucking sea slug from Florida's Cedar Key named after Muppets creator Jim Henson
Feet from the raw bars and sherbet-colored condominiums of Florida's Cedar Key, researchers discovered a new species of egg-sucking sea slug, a rare outlier in a group famous for being ultra-vegetarians.
How to keep fish in the sea and on the plate
Temporary bans on fishing can be better than permanent ones as a way of allowing fish stocks in an area to recover, while still providing enough to eat, a research team has found.
Slug glue reveals clues for making better medical adhesives
The Dusky Arion slug produces a defensive glue that fouls the mouthparts of any would-be predator.
More Sea Slug News and Sea Slug Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Uncharted
There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 1: Numbers
In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.