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Deception: Animals Do It, Robots Can Too

From the Trojan Horse to D-Day, deception has always played a role during wartime. In fact, there is an entire Army field manual on its use and value in the battlefield.

In order to avoid casualties, the military hopes to use more robot soldiers in the future. Using the deceptive behavioral patterns of squirrels and birds, researchers have developed robots that are able to deceive each other--and maybe us? The research is funded by the military (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show).

Squirrels gather acorns and store them in specific locations. They then patrol the hidden caches, routinely going back and forth to check on them. But when another squirrel shows up, hoping to raid the hiding spots, the hoarding squirrel changes its behavior-- instead of checking on the true locations, it visits empty cache sites, trying to deceive the predator.

Researcher Ronald Arkin says, "This application could be used by robots guarding ammunition or supplies on the battlefield. If an enemy were present, the robot could change its patrolling strategies to deceive humans or another intelligent machine, buying time until reinforcements are able to arrive."

In Israel, a particular species of bird, when in danger of being attacked, will sometimes join other birds and harass their predator. This mobbing process causes such a commotion that the predator will eventually give up the attack and leave.

Arkin says, "In military operations, a robot that is threatened might feign the ability to combat adversaries without actually being able to effectively protect itself. Being honest about the robot's abilities risks capture or destruction. Deception, if used at the right time in the right way, could possibly eliminate or minimize the threat."

Those of us who have (or have had) REAL pets know that dogs can learn the names of objects, like "ball," but researchers have found that they have a different learning style from adult humans--they mainly pay attention to the SHAPES of things. Thus the word "ball" might mean anything small and round, as far as your dog is concerned.

Most dogs have the intelligence of a two-year-old child, and interestingly enough, toddlers learn words by looking at shapes, as well. This tendency to categorize objects based on shape above other features is called "shape bias."

However, as Stephanie Pappas writes in LiveScience.com, "Kids wouldn't assume that a stuffed teddy bear is a ball just because it has the same fuzzy texture as a tennis ball. Nor would they call something a ball just because it is the same size as the balls they are familiar with."

We have war right here on Dreamland sometimes too (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show), but we never deceive anyone, especially not our listeners. If you value the truth above propaganda, make sure we'll still be here giving it to you in the future: Subscriber today! New one-year subscribers will get a FREE unknowncountry.com tote bag and two-year subscribers get a FREE crop circle calendar (but these offers are only good while supplies last!)



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