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Rolf Pfeifer

Rolf Pfeifer is Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the Department of Informatics at the University of Zurich. He is the author of Understanding Intelligence (MIT Press, 1999).

Titles by This Author

A New View of Intelligence

How could the body influence our thinking when it seems obvious that the brain controls the body? In How the Body Shapes the Way We Think, Rolf Pfeifer and Josh Bongard demonstrate that thought is not independent of the body but is tightly constrained, and at the same time enabled, by it. They argue that the kinds of thoughts we are capable of have their foundation in our embodiment—in our morphology and the material properties of our bodies.

This crucial notion of embodiment underlies fundamental changes in the field of artificial intelligence over the past two decades, and Pfeifer and Bongard use the basic methodology of artificial intelligence—"understanding by building"—to describe their insights. If we understand how to design and build intelligent systems, they reason, we will better understand intelligence in general. In accessible, nontechnical language, and using many examples, they introduce the basic concepts by building on recent developments in robotics, biology, neuroscience, and psychology to outline a possible theory of intelligence. They illustrate applications of such a theory in ubiquitous computing, business and management, and the psychology of human memory. Embodied intelligence, as described by Pfeifer and Bongard, has important implications for our understanding of both natural and artificial intelligence.

By the mid-1980s researchers from artificial intelligence, computer science, brain and cognitive science, and psychology realized that the idea of computers as intelligent machines was inappropriate. The brain does not run "programs"; it does something entirely different. But what? Evolutionary theory says that the brain has evolved not to do mathematical proofs but to control our behavior, to ensure our survival. Researchers now agree that intelligence always manifests itself in behavior—thus it is behavior that we must understand. An exciting new field has grown around the study of behavior-based intelligence, also known as embodied cognitive science, "new AI," and "behavior-based AI."

This book provides a systematic introduction to this new way of thinking. After discussing concepts and approaches such as subsumption architecture, Braitenberg vehicles, evolutionary robotics, artificial life, self-organization, and learning, the authors derive a set of principles and a coherent framework for the study of naturally and artificially intelligent systems, or autonomous agents. This framework is based on a synthetic methodology whose goal is understanding by designing and building.

The book includes all the background material required to understand the principles underlying intelligence, as well as enough detailed information on intelligent robotics and simulated agents so readers can begin experiments and projects on their own. The reader is guided through a series of case studies that illustrate the design principles of embodied cognitive science.

Titles by This Editor

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior

The Animals to Animats Conference brings together researchers from ethology, psychology, ecology, artificial intelligence, artificial life, robotics, engineering, and related fields to further understanding of the behaviors and underlying mechanisms that allow natural and synthetic agents (animats) to adapt and survive in uncertain environments. The work presented focuses on well-defined models--robotic, computer-simulation, and mathematical--that help to characterize and compare various organizational principles or architectures underlying adaptive behavior in both natural animals and animats.