Books : reviews

Stefano Nolfi, Marco Mirolli.
Evolution of Communication and Language in Embodied Agents.
Springer. 2010

Understanding the evolution of communication and human language is one of the hardest problems in science. Of significant research and practical interest is the related artificial perspective: How can populations of artificial agents develop forms of communication of varying complexity, analogous to animal and human communication? This represents a new field of research that will advance our knowledge about how communication skills originate and evolve in natural organisms and how we can develop autonomous artefacts that are able to cooperate to solve real-life problems.

Contributions from leading researchers address the following key issues in a systematic way: how communication emerges from a population of noncommunicating individuals; how the meaning of signals is grounded in agents’ sensory-motor states; how communication systems evolve by adapting to environmental and social changes; the emergence of communication systems with human-language characteristics; how shared communication systems self-organize; and the influence of network topology on communication. The book also addresses more general questions such as animal- vs. human-like communication systems; the emergence of language vs. other major evolutionary transitions; the strategic aspects of communication and language; and the role of complex systems methods and tools in modelling language evolution.

The book defines the theoretical and methodological foundations of the field, and shows its scientific and technical potential by describing key experiments. The book also shows the reader how to gain practical knowledge by replicating some of the results described, or by designing new experiments using open software and hardware tools. It will be a valuable resource for scientists, graduate students and engineers in the areas of cognition, artificial life, artificial intelligence and linguistics.