Artificially Intelligent Grid?
Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 05:26PM
Toby Considine in Re-thinking things, Weekend Fun

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…

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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