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Simple Agents Benefit Only from Simple Brains

Authors: Valeri A. Makarov, Nazareth P. Castellanos, Manuel G. Velarde


In order to answer the general question: “What does a simple agent with a limited life-time require for constructing a useful representation of the environment?" we propose a robot platform including the simplest probabilistic sensory and motor layers. Then we use the platform as a test-bed for evaluation of the navigational capabilities of the robot with different “brains". We claim that a protocognitive behavior is not a consequence of highly sophisticated sensory–motor organs but instead emerges through an increment of the internal complexity and reutilization of the minimal sensory information. We show that the most fundamental robot element, the short-time memory, is essential in obstacle avoidance. However, in the simplest conditions of no obstacles the straightforward memoryless robot is usually superior. We also demonstrate how a low level action planning, involving essentially nonlinear dynamics, provides a considerable gain to the robot performance dynamically changing the robot strategy. Still, however, for very short life time the brainless robot is superior. Accordingly we suggest that small organisms (or agents) with short life-time does not require complex brains and even can benefit from simple brain-like (reflex) structures. To some extend this may mean that controlling blocks of modern robots are too complicated comparative to their life-time and mechanical abilities.

Keywords: Neural network, probabilistic control, robot navigation.

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