Experiments In Synthetic Psychology Chapter 2

Exploring the boundaries between artificial intelligence and biological consciousness.

See: Vehicles Overview.

The most canonical Braitenberg vehicles. have 2 sensors, 2 motors, ray sources in the environment and different wiring makes different behavior.

(Vehicles gone? refresh page).

Works only so-so in an embedded window. Check the link to the gallery.

You can double-click them to blow them up. You can click one and rotate it with the mouse wheel. In the version with controls, you can spawn them as you like.


I am just calling them animals now. What is life? Trying to find a precise definition doesn't matter, but biology is still a useful school of thought.

I am recently thinking more intensely about what it means to program minds. Mhmm building those vehicles made me dream a little of the structure and form of programs, from which animal behavior self-evolves.

Braitenberg vehicles are cool because they are simple, maybe not the simplest, but very simple, sub-symbolically instantiated and enacted1 minds you can think of. The behavior of the vehicle is nowhere else but in the combination and interplay of the organism and its environment.

“From a drop of water," said the writer, "a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are shown a single link of it.”

― Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

What is there to be learned, from building little brains?

Pondering the Braitenberg vehicles in their simplicity, seeing their little purposes. One can go forth and imagine a vast system, of a million million little purposeful, citizens. Not alive by themself, not thinking by themself, nor loving, nor dreaming. And yet, from the contributions of the many, an ocean of little purposes makes a mind.

For an explanation of how they work, see Vehicles Overview, several YouTube explanations, as well as the book.

I love how love is broken. This animal is just stuck in adoration of the source.

Aggression looks like it is finding optimal paths to hit as many ray sources as possible.

Fear sometimes darts between the sources without hitting any.

From the explorer, I get the feeling the ray sources a little opposing magnets to it.



Varela et. al. (1991)

Date: 2023-10-16 Mon 09:50

Email: Benjamin.Schwerdtner@gmail.com