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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Embodied Intelligence: Natural and Artificial

Bruce MacLennan, Associate ProfessorCollege of Engineering - Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Intelligence pervades nature; from slime mold amoebas, which self-assemble into a multicellular slug capable of sensation and crawling; to self-organized embryological development, which coordinates the differentiation and arrangement of the 100 trillion cells of an adult person; to the swarm intelligence of social insects, governing millions of individuals without a leader; to the massively parallel information processing of the human brain’s 100 billion neurons. How can we understand such enormously complex systems? And how can we apply our knowledge in future technologies, such as brain-scale neurocomputers and swarms of millions of micro-robots? One key is that natural intelligence is embodied: its primary purpose is to govern a physical body situated in its environment. Indeed, we are beginning to understand that genuine intelligence — both natural and artificial — requires embodiment. These observations yield new insights into the relation of mind and body throughout nature.​

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