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Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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Artificially Intelligent Grid?

I’ve been thinking for a while that most Artificial intelligence attempts get one big wrong. They design single purpose systems that do one thing well, but do not have other aspects to their behavior. Neuroscientists often do the same thing, carefully noodling out the mechanisms and structures that support a single purpose.

Neuroscience is often advanced by war, and by people who suffer some sort of brain injury. This may take out an entire cognitive function, but the personality, and consciousness, while deformed, remains. So when is it that a system exhibits intelligent behavior. It may not be when enough low level programs are written, but rather when enough service oriented systems are amalgamated.

Recently I have been reading some background economic theory from Lynne Kiesling ( ). In her introduction, she leads the reader through the definition of a standard markets as complex adaptive systems. Complex adaptive systems have large numbers of diverse agents that interact. Each agent reacts to the actions of the other agents and to changes in environment. Agents are autonomous, using distributed control and decentralized decision making, Eventually, the dominant interaction becomes the agents interacting with the system environment that was itself created by the agents’ own independent decision making.

The market pattern results in emergent self organization, in which a large scale pattern emerges out of the smaller decisions and interactions. The emergent pattern is not imposed top-down, but rather arises decentralized agents interacting within bounds of distributed control (or self control if you will).

Another characteristic of such markets is resilience in the face of change, what the economists call adaptive capacity. This is of course a key element of intelligence.

For an old brain chemistry dude, this description of complex adaptive systems sounds a whole lot more like the proper model for intelligence and consciousness than do many of the reductive neuroscience models, let alone the AI approach. It clearly is closely aligned with the principles and language of embryology. Any number of gee-whiz articles since the sequencing of the human genome have explained that “it is really not a blue-print, but an organizing principle”. Emergent self organization is a pretty good description of how the body organizes itself, actually.

We’ve been talking about using building system-based agents as players in emerging energy markets. But now I’m wondering. Are we defining an ecosystem of agents that will be self-organizing, irrespective of the economics? Is it mandatory that we have a multiplicity of agents, to offer us resilience rather than stampedes during a crisis? Should we think of building services and efficient energy use as the tropisms these agents follow?

What if we’ve finally found the path to Artificial Intelligence…

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Reader Comments (3)

I think this is a great post in a lot of ways, because there is no real answer to the questions and ideas that you have, but the science is right on. I don't really have the ability to imagine a self-organizing power system, but that's why I read this blog, so that I can gain more insight from others with more insight and imagination in the field. What could such a system look like and how does the last paragraph of your post impact such a creation?

September 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGSS

I’m not sure either.

Even when working in data center design, my reflexes are guided by the biology training of my undergrad days – something that makes some of my conversations with engineers odd; we use words differently. Still.

There is a common meme in literature that when and if we achieve AI, we will either (a) do it by accident or (b) not recognize it. I do not want to play that chord too loudly, but a self-organizing grid becoming aware is the kind of thought that comes into my head when a rooster crows at 3:00 AM, and I lie unmoving and semi-conscious.

Be that as it may, self organizing systems with emergent order are the norm in biology. I recognized in Lynne’s writing, summarizing quite well known market theory, the same words. It seemed a small jump to discovering the same behavior in independent agents.

Of more immediate interest to me is meditating on how I might program an agent differently if I were thinking of tropisms rather than methods…

September 14, 2007 | Registered CommenterToby Considine

Toby: one of my old friends who has now bitten the dust did endless some on ai etc. in the MIT orbit. The problem he found is that all expert systems model either dumb or mediocre behavior. So he spent his time with the best experts he could find with the hope of parsing their movements.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGlboal Province

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