The "vehicles" described in this light-hearted yet wonderfully skillful exercise in fictional science are the inventions of one of the world's eminent brain researchers. There are 14 of them in all—a series of hypothetical, self-operating mobile machines that exhibit increasingly sophisticated behavior similar to that in the real biological or neuroscientific world.
One might assemble Braitenberg's vehicles like cunning table-top toys that might look like the fantastic Albrecht drawings which illustrate them in the. Whatever their guise, they behave like living creatures, ranging from simple light-seeking automata to vehicles that an observing psychologist or philosopher might conclude were operated by concealed human beings.
Each of the vehicles in the series incorporates the essential features of all the earlier models but represents an evolutionary advance to a higher plateau of complexity (including the designer's accidents or mistakes that sometimes resulted in a better machine). Along the way, they come to embody the instincts of fight or flight, the characteristic behaviors impelled by love and by logic, manifestations of foresight, concept formation, creative thinking, personality, and free will. Braitenberg shows that these attributes and patterns of behavior can be internalized into machines using the simplest parts—a collection of environmental sensors, some wheel-driving motors, various threshold devices, a few fictional (but logically and technologically plausible) components with special properties. He locates many elements of his fantasy in current brain research in a concluding section of extensive biological notes.
A Bradford Book.
About the Author
Valentino Braitenberg is a director of the Max Planck Institute of Biological Cybernetics and Honorary Professor of Information Science at the University of Tübingen, West Germany.
"The small and cheerful book at hand, by a well-known researcher on the brain from T