5 Sep 2009
“Curiosity is the lust of the mind.”
–Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
We had Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Artificial Life (ALife). What comes next? Maybe Artificial Curiosity. The tremendous computational power of a human brain comes from years of learning and adaptation. Therefore programming all necessary knowledge into computers seems to be hopeless. The only hope is a general purpose learning algorithm. Contrary to computers and robots today, we are all equipped with an inquisitive mind, with the drive to explore and understand the world. At least as children.
Many grown ups have lost not only the happiness and innocence of childhood, they have also lost their natural curiosity. Children are endlessly curious and ask questions without end, they are naturally imaginative, innovative and open to worlds of possibilities. They are insatiably curious because it is fun to learn new things: to make new connections and to gain new insights is very pleasant. It is the same pleasure that scientists love about their jobs: the pleasure of finding things out. Children are like little researchers. For a child, there is always more to know. Some people stay curious for their life, for scientists it is their profession: universities are citadels for the pursuit of curiosity.
An autonomous agent with artificial curiosity would be childlike, a bit like an artificial scientist: it would enjoy insights and like the mysterious, i.e. it would like research and exploration, continuously investigating and questioning the world. Would an agent which shows artificial curiosity also be bored? Or be fascinated if there is something completely new and very interesting? How to be childlike is a good question for grown-ups, but it is also a question which leads maybe one day to true AI and ALife.