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Despite the vast advancement of methodologies and computational power, robot intelligence is still far from human level, leaving “hard problems” such as meaning and consciousness unsolved. Understanding the fundamentals of human intelligence is becoming more and more important. In this talk, I will first show that physics of human-like body in action already provide certain information structure which can set the natural basis of categorization and meaning. Then, I will show a principle of autonomous exploration that reveals the embodied information structure, aka. body affordances. Coordinated motor patterns consistent with the embodiment emerge from multiple chaotic elements coupled through body-environment physics.

In humans, the above principle drives early motor development. And the resulting sensory-motor information can be captured by self-organizing neural circuits, forming the basis of cognitive structure. In order to investigate this hypothetical scenario, we constructed a simulation model of a human-oid fetus. It consists of a musculo-skeletal body, the environment within uterus, a neural model of spine and medulla, and a self-organizing neural network modelling sensory and motor cortical areas. A series of experiments revealed that with very little “innate” neural circuits, the model acquires various behaviour patterns that comply with its embodiment, and the neural model self organizes to capture the information structure.

In 2012, a new five-year project called “Constructive Developmental Science” has started. It is a collaborative effort by roboticists, psychologists, medical scientists, and “Tojisha”, the researchers who investigate their own developmental disorders as internal observers. The fetal development simulation plays a core role there as a platform for integrating the interdisciplinary data and experimenting on the effect of various early genetic/environmental conditions on the courses of development. The project aims at revealing the fundamental principles of human development and new understanding of developmental disorders.

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