Dancing Robots

   A long tradition of cultural academic research has been into the traditions of folk singing and folk dances. There is always great play of connectivity across disparate groups so that origins can be tracked. It’s always good for a thesis or two to describe these connections.

Now it seems that these cultural shifts can also occur with our friendly robots as they do their best to respond and learn from their neighbors. The BBC reports on a study of dancing robots at the University of WoE in which a host of little robots were cast adrift in a large room to fend for themselves.

A few had some cool moves programed in, but the rest had to pick up the latest trend by trial and error.  Now these weren’t sophisticated robots, but simple little creatures cast into the big world with only a couple of wheels and some sensitive sensors to cope with the fast movers and shakers let loose in the room.

There was no question of the old days when there could be “wallflowers” who rarely got asked to dance. This was up to date clubland practice where everybody dances, but in this case now one was hawking E around.

Well, of course, a little robot with only two wheels and trailing a butt is going to be a tad limited on the more advanced moves and when they tried to learn from the stars on the floor, they could only come close, but no cigars were awarded.

Now, one learned from another and eventually stable variants of the original dance motion were established – a new folk culture for the group had been born. It might evolve further over time, but it was now a relatively stable variant of the original.

Now came the thing that you can do with little robots, but that you can’t do with your kids who have got into habits that you’d rather they hadn’t – you can wipe their memories and start over. When that was done and the original dancing robots were let loose, the hoi polloi did their best and ended up with their cultural dance which was stable, but not the same as the first variant.

In effect, they had ended up with a new folk culture from the same starting point. They had been born again and had not reverted to the same old, same old.

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18352293

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