Understanding diversity

A theme that is increasingly gaining traction among designers of autonomous agents of various kinds is the idea that long term robust behavior requires a bank of diverse strategies, marshaled in any given instance to produce the desired decision or plan. So, if you are trying to build an autonomous robot, worry less about getting individual local behaviors perfected and focus more on the large scale structure of all the different tasks you expect to encounter, and how you will exploit properties of this global structure. If you are a trading agent, perhaps a bank of low complexity rules put together can do better (in the sense of robustness) than a more fancy but delicate model.

Recently, someone pointed me to work by the economist, Scott Page, on this theme but in a much broader context. Here is an NYT interview summarizing his view: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/science/08conv.html. He has also written books on the topic, e.g., Diversity and Complexity, Princeton University Press 2010. Interesting stuff.

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