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ProjectBlog: Machine Behaviour

Blog: Machine Behaviour


Almost by accident I came across this article on Nautilus (a website/magazine with a refreshing take on (popular) science writing):

It is a popularization by one of the authors of the original Nature article, downloadable as pdf via ResearchGate:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332636704_Machine_behaviour

The idea is to make Machine behavior a (scientific) field of study, where ‘machine’ should be read as Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning models.

“In his landmark 1969 book, Sciences of the Artificial, Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon wrote: “Natural science is knowledge about natural objects and phenomena. We ask whether there cannot also be ‘artificial’ science — knowledge about artificial objects and phenomena.” In line with Simon’s vision, we advocate the need for a new, distinct scientific discipline of Machine Behavior: the scientific study of behavior exhibited by intelligent machines.”

Simon’s book The Science of the Artificial. With the first edition in 1969 (!) and this one being the 3rd (1996) it shows that the study of the artificial is not a new concept (the ‘pejorative air’ that artificial air has around it, unfortunately still persists)

While the Nautilus article is more accessible, the Nature one better explains why such a field of study is necessary and the various areas that need to be addressed.

It’s necessary because of:
1) The Ubiquity of algorithms (they are everywhere)
2) The Complexity and opacity of algorithms (they are hard to understand and in many cases black boxes).
3) The beneficial and detrimental effect on humanity (an area of fierce debate)

As for the areas of study, the suggested distinction between Individual machine behavior, Collective machine behavior, and Hybrid human machine behavior both makes sense and looks promising. By further dividing the last one in Machines shaping human behavior, Humans shaping machine behavior and Human-Machine co-behavior such a study can address many meaningful discussions that are going on around AI ethics and the individual and societal opportunities and threats of AI.

On Instagram (#itheadlines) I have collected around 3000 news headlines related to robots and AI for over seven months. They show a bewildering range of opinions (often conflicting), hopes, fears, and doubts related to machines and there seems no better time than the present for studying Machine Behavior.

An example of Instagram’s #itheadlines, highlighting the opposing views on maches.

Although scientific studies on the subject exist, to date there is no interdisciplinary study addressing machine behavior as a whole, and I for one certainly see the value of such a study.


See the trailer for the Machine Behavior Season 1 on their YouTube channel:

This (long) discussion on Ethics in Artificial Intelligence is an excellent example of the subjects that are being addressed in the first season (17 episodes in total):

Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

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