29 February 2012


Though experiments probing the information structure of the human brain are still in their early stages, mathematical simulations have shown that integrated information can in fact be measured in other systems. Tononi and his colleagues devised a system so simple that its phi [a measure of integrated information] can be calculated — a simulated animal called an animat. Relying on sensors that detected the environment, actuators that allowed it to move and places to store data as it learned, this animat worked its way through a computer maze. The animat also possessed an ability that most living organisms take for granted: It could gradually evolve over 50,000 generations of maze running.

At the start, the animat had a hard time navigating. But around generation 14,000, it got good. Along with this performance boost, the animat’s phi, the amount of information successfully shuttled among its constituent parts, went up. Different bits learned to communicate. By generation 49,000, the animat whizzed through the maze with its high phi.
-- report, paper.

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