Robotics Reference

In-Depth Information

this topic, since it relates to the reproduction of the robot itself, will be

found in the section “Self-Reproducing Software” in Chapter 11.

How Computers Discover and Invent

Creativity is the ability to bring something new into existence, by

seeing things in a new way. Those who have this in the greatest

degree are considered geniuses. [6]

Discovery

The earliest demonstration of discovery
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by computer was Douglas

Lenat's program AM,
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written in 1976, which could propose interest-

ing mathematical theorems based on its own “intuition”. AM was given

a small number of mathematical concepts together with a set of heuristic

rules for creating new concepts and deciding how interesting they were.

The program worked by first creating a list of things to investigate and

then trying them in the order “most interesting” first. Any new ideas that

resulted from an investigation would be added to the list and the cycle

repeated. In essence this process is similar to the method employed by

the Logic Theory Machine—generate a new result from existing knowl-

edge and then employ the new result together with the old knowledge to

see what else can be generated.

AM started life with a small nucleus of ideas from set theory, a branch

of mathematics. Amongst the mathematical concepts that the program

discovered were counting, addition and multiplication, all of which ap-

pear very simple to us. But it also discovered for itself the concept of

prime numbers, and then, having “invented” prime numbers, it an-

nounced what had been known since 1742 as Goldbach's Conjecture,

namely: “Every number that is greater than 2 is the sum of three prime

numbers,”
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a conjecture that the program did not find particularly

interesting.

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Scientific discovery and invention are both highly creative processes and might, therefore, argue

for inclusion in the previous chapter. In the case of the Logic Theory Machine, for example, Newell,

Shaw and Simon wrote in 1958 about the possibility that their “machine's” discoveries of new proofs

in logic were creative. I make no apologies for including discovery and invention here instead—they

simply seem to me to be more closely allied with some of the techniques described in the present

chapter.

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Lenat has claimed that the name AM means nothing, but stands alone as in the biblical “I AM

that I AM”, though others have suggested that originally it stood for Artificial Mathematician.

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Remember that one is a prime number.