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Updated Module Syllabus 2016-2017: Artificial Life with Robotics 

This information here is to give an idea of the contents of the module and syllablus timetable. It is subject to modification depending on course circumstances, external and internal moderator feedback, and time constraints. Please refer to Module Guide and DMD for the official version.

UPDATED 28 October 2016 -- The order of some lecture topics starting from November 15 has been modified.


 SEMESTER A   (Lectures  12 weeks   plus weekly robotics lab)

Introduction (1 week):  4 & 7 October

Topics from:Definitions of Life, Emergence, Bottom-up vs. Top-down approaches, Logic of Life vs. Embodied Artificial Life, Overview of Major Issues (Emergence, Self-Organization, Life as It Could Be, Weak vs. Strong Artificial Life, etc); Role of the Observer, Braitenberg vehicles. 

Life and Evolution on Earth and in the Computer (1/2 week): 11 October

Biological background for Computer Scientists: Evolution of Life on Earth, Molecular Genetics, Genetic Code (and its digital nature), Protein BioSynthesis; and if time allows, Digital Organisms in Tierra (Self-Reproduction and Evolution), 


Cellular Automata (1/2 week): 14 October

Topics from: models of natural systems (e.g. Hodge-Podge machine, Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction), classes of CAs / computation, homeostasis, edge of chaos, examples, excitable media, topics from: synchronous and asynchronous cellular automata, lamba-parameter, dimensionality, topologies, automata networks, software simulation tools


Swarm Intelligence (1 week): 18 & 21 October

stigmergy, optimization, sorting, collective building and maintenance, flocking, anonymous social intelligence, social interaction, anonymous vs. individualized social intelligence. 
Possible Extension Topic: Swarms, Flocks, Herds, Boids, Multicellular Behaviour (1 hour)

Growth and Morphogenesis I  (1 week):  25 October & 1 November

L-systems (Lindenmayer systems) modelling plant and fractal growth, biological examples, environmental factors.

* * * 26 October (Wednesday): Proposal for Project A Due (2-3 pages) at Computer Science Reecption by 3 pm

28 October (Friday): In-Class Feedback on Proposal A at 11 a.m.


Agents & Socially Intelligent Robots (1 week): 4 & 8 November

Topics selected from: Definitions, embodied agents, classification, issues of autonomy and design, degrees of embodiment, social intelligence. 

Life-like believable agents, varieties of social intelligence, Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) and applications, survey of issues and example implementations.

Robot and Agent Architectures (2 1/2 weeks: 11, 18, & 25 November, 2 & 16 December)  

Topics selected from:Subsumption and other architectures, behaviour selection and modulation techniques, potential fields, behaviour-orientation, machine learning techniques for robot learning, developmental approaches to robotics, social learning and imitation.

Self-Reproduction  (1/2 week):  15 November

Self-replicators; Langton loops and variants; von Neumann's problem, self-reproducers and their evolution (J. von Neumann, H. Sayama, and others); Autopoiesis (Maturana, Uribe, Varela)


* * * 28 November (Monday): Project A due by 3 pm at Computer Science Reception (6-8 pages in two-column IEEE format,  with references (see example); + Appendices including all code); Demos this week


Evolutionary Systems and Computation (1 1/2 weeks: 22 & 29 November, 6 December)

Topics selected from: Genetic Algorithms, Darwinian Evolution, speciation, fitness landscapes, genetic algorithm (GA) theory (convergence issues, deceptive landscapes), genotype-phenotype maps, evolvability, Co-evolution, optimization of objective function vs. ecological fitness, Symbiosis, Host-Parasite Relations, Self-organization. Genetic Algorithms, Genetic Programming, Evolutionary Strategies, techniques and methods; related methods: hill-climbing and simulated annealing. Topics selected from:   Evolution of Developmental Genetic Regulatory Networks [a non-Von Neumann novel computational paradigm!]; biological complexity, duplication-divergence and division of labour; Transitions in Fitness: sex, repair and multicellular cooperation (L. Buss, R. Michod) DGRNs, and the Evolution of Multicellularity.


* * * 7 December (Wednesday): Proposal for Project B Due (2-3 pages) by 3 pm at Computer Science Reception - Feed-back within same week


Growth and Morphogenesis II, and Differentiated Multicellularity  (1 week):  9 & 13 December

Topics selected from: L-systems (Lindenmayer systems) modelling plant and fractal growth, biological examples, environmental factors; Diffusion-Reaction (Turing systems), positional information (L. Wolpert), Multicellularity & Individuality (L. Buss, R. Michod). What is evo-devo? growth and form in nature; models of multicellular morphogenesis (e.g. Marée, Glazier-Graner; D'Arcy Thompson; evo-devo of life on earth).

* * * 16 December (Friday 1 pm): Trashcan Robotics Lab Task Due and Team Demos in Lab  


Robot and Agent Archictectures for HRI (1/2 week): 20 December

Continuation of the above topics in regard to Human-Robot Interaction design

Post-Reactive Natural and Artificial Intelligence & Robotics: (1/2 week): 6 January 

 Topics chosen from perception-action loop, the temporal horizon: reactive / affective / learning / deliberative / post-reactive agents and robots; information and 'meaning', sensor evolution; interaction games and histories; and narrative intelligence.


* * *  11 January (Wednesday): Project B Due (Demos same week)