Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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brown and black turtle on body of water

Animal Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence

Did you know that animals have built-in algorithms? Some of these amazing algorithms allow animals to migrate to new places and navigate back to previous locations. Insects also have a wide variety of fascinating social behaviors. Where did they come from? Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms, discusses animal algorithms, artificial intelligence, instincts, and irreducible complexity with Robert J. Marks.…

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leafcutter ants

The Hive Mind: Leafcutter Ants Behave Like Farmhands But…

But they are actually following a colony algorithm rather than making individual decisions

Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021), tells us that his favorite type of ant (p. 97) is the leafcutter (Attini). Its complex fungus farming provides insight into the “hive mind,” in which a natural version of a computer algorithm enables highly complex decision-making. There are 39 known species of leafcutters in the American tropics, easily recognized as the long trails (up to 30 metres) of ants, all carrying pieces of leaves they have stripped from trees. They bring them into underground nests featuring perhaps a thousand chambers housing millions of ants. There they chew up the leaves and cultivate the fungus that feeds their larvae and themselves (along with plant sap).…

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Businessman holds the model of business, made from wood blocks. Alternative risk concept, business plan and business strategy. Insurance concept.

Design versus Naturalist Origin Theories of Animal Algorithms

The programming inside the animal brain is much like a game of Jenga. If one tries to pull the wrong block, then the entire stack comes crashing down. Robert J. Marks and Eric Cassell discuss how animal algorithms serve as the perfect example of irreducible complexity. Show Notes 01:25 | Introducing Eric Cassell 01:52 | What is the source of…

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Ant action standing.Ant bridge unity team,Concept team work together

For Ants, Building a Bridge Is No “Simple” Task

There is nothing “simple” about designing neural systems and the computer systems to receive and interpret neural sensory inputs

Researching for my previous Mind Matters article about bird and bee biological software, I came across a short piece at Quanta Magazine entitled “The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges.” Really, a “simple” insect algorithm? Intriguing. Eric Cassell’s book, Animal Algorithms (2021), reveals the complex and intricate hardware-software systems enabling bird and insect procedures for migration, building nests and structures, social cooperation, and navigation. Grounded in engineering training and experience, Cassell shows that animal algorithms must be designed top-down starting with a goal, fashioning the data input sensors, developing the necessary procedures, and implementing them in software to direct hardware. Yet the Quanta Magazine piece reported that Panamanian army ants’ procedures for building bridges of living ants is accomplished using a “simple algorithm.” The problem the army…

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Two ants. Conflict, ants fight. Conceptually - dialogue, conversation, meeting, showdown, difficult negotiations. Beautiful rainbow background. Ants large, raised abdomens

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Insects Could Put Humans on Trial?

In Science+, a shrunken inventor finds himself facing Ant Justice

“Science+” at DUST by Leela Varghese (February 28, 2021, 11:11 min) “When Matt accidentally shrinks himself and is captured by the ants whom he has unwittingly been squashing, he must find a way to escape their clutches and his impending death sentence.” Review: This is what good comedy looks like. Matt is filming himself doing various science projects for his (possibly) YouTube program “Science+”, when he gets shrunk by his own shrink-o-matic. The ants, seen face to face, turn out to be roughly like people, of whom — Matt discovers — he has killed nearly 3500. They learned English from humans in Britain but otherwise they speak Ant. You must hear that. And no more spoilers. The story raises some…