First published 2 July 2012
Evolving a Follower in the Presence of a Potential Leader
Brent E. Eskridge
In many real-world tasks, the ability to use a group of autonomous agents provides significant benefits over a single agent. However, these benefits come at the cost of greater complexity, particularly in the areas of cooperation and coordination. While many approaches address this problem, of particular interest is the use of leaders that emerge through action, and not group deliberation. Other agents follow these "emergent leaders" through the use of environmental cues, rather than explicit communication. While there have been many observations of emergent leadership both in natural and artificial systems, there is a lack of understanding into how this behavior can be reproduced and fostered in artificial systems. In the work presented here, experiments inspired by studies of natural systems were performed to evaluate the ease with which following behaviors could be evolved. Agent controllers were evolved both in isolation and in the presence of a potential leader. Results show that the controllers evolved in the presence of a potential leader exhibited following behaviors when there was an evolutionary advantage and did not incur a fitness penalty when doing so. In fact, agents that followed a leader agent were able to achieve higher fitness than agents acting alone in comparable situations.