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Publisher: Journals Gateway
Artificial Life (2019) 25 (4): 315–333.
Published: 01 November 2019
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AbstractView article PDF
Engineers, control theorists, and neuroscientists often view the delay imposed by finite signal propagation velocities as a problem that needs to be compensated for or avoided. In this article, we consider the alternative possibility that in some cases, signal delay can be used functionally , that is, as an essential component of a cognitive system. To investigate this idea, we evolve a minimal robot controller to solve a basic stimulus-distinction task. The controller is constrained so that the solution must utilize a delayed recurrent signal. Different from previous evolutionary robotics studies, our controller is modeled using delay differential equations, which (unlike the ordinary differential equations of conventional continuous-time recurrent neural networks) can accurately capture delays in signal propagation. We analyze the evolved controller and its interaction with its environment using classical dynamical systems techniques. The analysis shows what kinds of invariant sets underlie the various successful and unsuccessful performances of the robot, and what kinds of bifurcations produce these invariant sets. In the second phase of our analysis, we turn our attention to the parameter θ , which describes the amount of signal delay included in the model. We show how the delay destabilizes certain attractors that would exist if there were no delay and creates other stable attractors, resulting in an agent that performs well at the target task.