Teleo-Reactive Programs Are Reaching Their Goals
Teleo-Reactive Programs (TRPs) help robots and other machine intelligences achieve goals, not just specific behaviors. Most of the robots working today make use of discrete actions (like a welding robot in an automobile plant that makes specific welds in pre-programmed parts of a frame). These robots are extensions of the mechanical automata of the 18th century, in that they have only pre-programmed behavior. (In a purely mechanical system, the "programming" is done in the design of the device itself.)
One way that TRPs can begin to approximate conscious intelligence is by making use of durative actions. The idea is that a durative action is executed until a particular goal is met; for example, "keep moving forward until you meet the wall." A discrete command is a one-time movement that is executed, like "Move forward one yard."
TRSoccerbots is an example of a program that makes use of TRPs. It is a soccer simulation in which the machine tries to score goals by executing a set of rules that encourage goals to happen, rather than a mechanical specification of exactly how to proceed.
The bots are programmed by setting rules; here's how the rules work to achieve top-level goals:
"The rules at the top of the list are usually the ones that are relevant when the robot is close to achieving a particular goal, and the bottom rules are relevant when the robot is far from its goal. The idea is that the bottom rules trigger actions that change the world in such a way that the conditions higher in the list become satisfied. For most humans, this way of organizing the rules in a teleo-reactive program is most natural."
For a good example of a goal-seeking robot in sf, check out the hangman from Roger Zelazny's 1976 novella My Name Is Legion
For more information, see The Age of Purposeful Machines and A Web Page for Teleo-Reactive Programs. Graphics and quote from TRSoccerbots.org.
See a brief video clip of soccerbots at http://trsoccerbots.org/downloads/trsoccer.wmv.
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