Industrial automation relies on a very low level of intelligence most of the time. The whole point of automation is to get a machine to do something consistently time after time. You want completely predictable results. Creative, whimsical results are not the goal when you’re manufacturing and packaging millions of packets of wet wipes.
At the same time, AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the most interesting things going on in machinery today. Even if it hasn’t actually made much difference yet, predictions about the use of AI in manufacturing are optimistic. How about a factory that analyses Twitter messages to predict demand for various products, plans how many of each item to make, and spreads the word among the machinery to produce just those items in those quantities? It hasn’t happened, but it’s fun to think about.
Here’s something else it turns out AI can help robots do: cheat.
A bot was programmed to play an old-school video game, and to learn as it played. The idea was that the machine could develop strategies based on experience, as humans do. Sure enough, the machine identified a bug that allowed it to bypass the rules of the game and rack up unnatural numbers of points.
Is it cheating if a machine does it?
The AI system in this case was programmed with the rules of the game, but only in the sense that our factory machines are programmed with the rules of tightening a bolt or picking and placing a frozen pie.
Nobody explained the concept of rules to the machine. The idea that it would be honorable to follow the rules and dishonorable to exploit a weakness in the game didn’t come up in the programming.
We’ve seen dogs cheat at games. Dog games can be pretty simple. One we’re familiar with is where one dog chases another around a sofa. The rules seem pretty simple: you run and I’ll chase, and we’ll both go around and around the sofa.
We’ve seen lots of dogs play this game. We’ve seen clever dogs switch directions without warning. We’ve seen old dogs duck under the sofa to rest for a couple of rounds and then dart back out and pick up the game where they left off. These moves are, we’re pretty sure, cheating. The cheaters don’t get in trouble, though, because there is no concept of honor involved in these games.
It seems to work that way with AI, too.
Certainly, we need to consider what possible negative consequences could arise in a factory if a machine chooses to break the rules in order to increase throughput. In the meantime, call on us whenever you need Rexroth support. We specialize in Rexroth electric industrial motion control, from drives and servos to cables and batteries, from legacy units to the newest creations.