So, Where’s My Robot?

Thoughts on Social Machine Learning

Origins of Social Learning

chimpsFor those of us working towards Social Machine Learning, the ongoing research into the evolutionary roots of this ability in humans can provide some great insight. This Science Times article reports on a recent symposium, “The Mind of the Chimpanzee,” where scientists presented research on various aspects of chimpanzee emotional, cultural, and cognitive abilities.

It’s now widely acknowledged that chimps have some level of social learning abilities. Some of the best evidence of this is tool use–which “seems to vary from one isolated chimp community to another.” This indicates that chimps in the different communities are picking up skills by emulation.

They fold leaves in a mat to sponge water out of tree hollows and scoop algae off stream surfaces. They collect edible ants with sticks. They take stouter tree branches and pound the juicy palm fiber to a pulp, preparing another favorite food.

Dr. Sanz, who has worked with her husband, David B. Morgan, on some of the research, described mother chimps’ carefully withdrawing from a hole sticks swarming with black termites while their infants looked on. These social interactions, she said, passed on essential techniques and behaviors to the next generation.

The article is a nice introduction that points to some recent work on chimpanzee social and cognitive abilities. Here are a couple of other good reads on the topic of non-human social learning abilities:

C. M. Heyes, B.G. Galef (Eds.). Social Learning in Animals: The Roots of Culture, San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1996.

K. Dautenhahn & C. Nehaniv (Eds.), Imitation in animals and artifacts, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002.

April 17th, 2007 Posted by | In the News, Situated Learning | no comments