The Talking Heads experiment: Origins of words and meanings

The Talking Heads experiment: Origins of words and meanings

By Luc Steels
Book Description

The Talking Heads Experiment, conducted in the years 1999-2001, was the first large-scale experiment in which open populations of situated embodied agents created for the first time ever a new shared vocabulary by playing language games about real world scenes in front of them.

The agents could teleport to different physical sites in the world through the Internet. Sites, in Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Tokyo, London, Cambridge and several other locations were linked into the network. Humans could interact with the robotic agents either on site or remotely through the Internet and thus influence the evolving ontologies and languages of the artificial agents.

The present book describes in detail the motivation, the cognitive mechanisms used by the agents, the various installations of the Talking Heads, the experimental results that were obtained, and the interaction with humans. It also provides a perspective on what happened in the field after these initial groundbreaking experiments. The book is invaluable reading for anyone interested in the history of agent-based models of language evolution and the future of Artificial Intelligence.

Print editions available via Language Science Press.

Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • The 1999 Talking Heads book
    • Introduction
      • The Talking Heads experiment
      • The main hypotheses
      • A bottom-up approach to artificial intelligence
      • History of the project
      • Beyond Turing
      • The book
    • Preview
      • The main components
        • Teleporting
        • The robots
        • The agents
        • Interactivity
      • The Guessing Game
        • Rules of the game
        • Nature of the game
        • The semiotic square
        • Processes involved in language communication
        • Knowledge sources and competences
      • Perception and categorisation
        • Scene and topic selection
        • Sensory channels
        • Making distinctions
      • Lexicalisation
        • Same meaning, same referent
        • A new word
        • Competition between words
        • Disambiguation
        • Same meaning, different referent
        • Situated grounded semantics
      • The origins of grammar
      • Conclusions
    • Perception
      • What sensors sense
        • Artificial sensors and actuators
        • Natural sensing
        • Behaviours
      • Segmentation
        • Feature extraction
        • Divergent perception
        • The sieve architecture
      • Sensory channels
        • Example channels
        • Conceptual spaces
        • Perceptual constancy
        • Transformations
        • Scaling
        • Saliency
      • Methodology
        • Putting up scaffolds
        • Idealisation and realism
      • The geom world
      • Conclusions
    • The Discrimination Game
      • The paradoxes of meaning
        • The empiricist's stance
        • The rationalist's stance
        • Arguments for and against rationalism
        • Arguments for and against empiricism
      • Selectionism
        • Principles of selectionism
        • Selectionist cognitive systems
        • The tree metaphor
        • Deriving new sensory channels
        • Comparing approaches
      • Discrimination trees
        • Making distinctions
        • Categorisers
        • The Discrimination Game
        • The Pachinko machine
        • Competition between categories
        • Variations on discrimination
        • The Discrimination Game in action
        • The importance of scaling and saliency
        • Combinations of categories
        • A real world scene
      • An ecology of distinctions
        • Growth dynamics
        • Pruning dynamics
        • Average discriminatory success and repertoire size
        • Adaptivity in categorisation
        • Real world scenes
      • Conclusions
    • The Naming Game
      • Inventing a lexicon
        • Representing lexical associations
        • Updating the score
        • Constructing and acquiring words
        • The Naming Game in action
        • Characterising the lexicon
        • Monitoring
        • Measuring lexical coherence
      • Scaling up
        • Coping with new meanings
        • Lexicon acquisition by virgin agents
        • Preservation in changing populations
      • Self-organisation
        • Winner-take-all processes
        • Collective behaviour and self-organisation
        • Increasing-returns economics
        • Lessons from nature
      • Lexical dynamics
        • Spatially distributed naming games
        • Language contact
      • Conclusions
    • The Guessing Game
      • Defining the Guessing Game
        • Example of a coupled game
        • Input-output coupling
        • Updating the scores
        • Repair processes
      • Synonymy
      • Ambiguity
        • How words may still get the same meaning
        • How words get different meanings
        • Competition between word meanings
        • Lexical and ontological development
      • Scaling up
        • Increasing the population size
        • Lexicon acquisition by new agents
      • Conclusions
    • Grounding
      • A first grounding experiment
        • Integrating perception and action
        • Concept acquisition
        • Generalisation without learning
        • The influence of the environment
        • Coping with perceptual anomalies
      • Semiotic dynamics
        • Tracking language evolution
        • Semiotic landscapes
        • Competition diagrams
        • RMF coherence
      • The ideal language
        • Total coherence
        • Communicative success despite incoherence
      • Damping synonymy and ambiguity
        • The story of fepi
        • The story of xu
        • The entry of O3
      • Rousseau's paradox
        • Universality versus relativism
        • Ontological coherence
      • Conclusions
  • Installations and experiments
    • The first series (1999)
      • The Laboratorium exhibition
      • The installation
      • Start up of the experiment
      • Results of the experiment
      • Conclusions
    • The second series (2000–2001)
      • The N01SE exhibition
        • The exhibition
        • Installation at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge
        • Installation at the Wellcome Gallery in London
      • Iconoclasm
      • Installation at the Palais de la Découverte in Paris
      • The portable Talking Heads
      • Look into the Box
      • Conclusions
  • Beyond the Talking Heads
    • Beyond the Talking Heads experiment
      • Experiments with the aibo robots
        • aibo's first words
        • The Perspective Reversal experiment
      • Scaling up to grammar
        • Early syntax experiments
        • The Case Grammar experiments
          • Scaling up the vision system
          • Object identification
          • Event identification
          • Qualitative descriptors
          • Scaling up the language system
          • Analogy as the driver of generalisation
      • Conclusions
    • Language strategies for humanoid robots
      • The Proper Naming Game
        • Challenges
        • Semiotic networks
      • Action Games
      • The Colour Description Game
        • Compositional procedural semantics with IRL
        • Building blocks for natural language semantics
        • Strategies for colour
        • Translation to grammar
        • Influence of embodiment
      • Conclusion
    • Language evolution
      • Culture-driven language evolution
      • Fitness landscapes
        • Fitness landscapes of language systems
        • The fitness landscape of language strategies
      • Selection and alignment of language strategies
      • Generation of new strategies
        • A meta-strategy for generating new conceptualisation strategies
        • Meta-strategies for generating new lexicogrammatical strategies
      • Conclusions
    • Bibliography
    • Index
      • Name index
      • Subject index
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