Teleo-Reactive Programs and Models of Animal Behavior

My work on TR programs was partially inspired by the “Tote Units‚” of Miller, Galanter, and Pribram who proposed them as a model of behavior.  I was also aware of the work on animal behavior by ethologists, such as Nicholas Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz.  Could TR programs serve as a model of some aspects of animal behavior? In my 1998 AI textbook, Artificial Intelligence: A New Synthesis, I repeated (on p. 82) the following description (from a book by Dean Wooldridge) of the behavior of the solitary wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus:

“. . . the wasp’s routine is to bring the paralyzed cricket [in whose body eggs have been laid] to [the wasp’s] burrow, leave it on the threshold, go inside to  see that all is well, emerge, and then drag the cricket in.  If the cricket is moved a few inches away while the wasp is inside making her preliminary inspection, the wasp, on emerging from the burrow, will bring the cricket back to the threshold, but not inside, and will then repeat the preparatory procedure of entering the burrow to see that everything is all right.  If again the cricket is removed a few inches while the wasp is inside, once again she will move the cricket up to the threshold and reenter the burrow for a final check. . . . On one occasion this procedure was repeated forty times, always with the same result.”

Sounds a little bit like the behavior of a TR program that lacks a belief store (for remembering the perceived situation inside the burrow).

In pursuing the possible relationships of TR programs to models of animal behavior, a colleague at SRI (Peter Hart) and I ran across a 1960 book by J. Anthony Deutsch, The Structural Basis of Behavior. The diagrams (on page 40 of that book) of how perceptual stimuli affect motor output, while not exactly like TR programs, seem to bear a close resemblance to them.

To explore the use of TR programs as models of animal behavior would obviously require the attention of experimental and theoretical ethologists.

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