“Bio-inspired Artificial Intelligence” falls short of acknowledging original work

I was excited to check out Dario Floreano’s latest book: “Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence“, but after only a few hours, I was pretty much ready to put it down.

I started by checking the area that I’m most familiar with: neural networks that New Book: bio-inspired artificial intelligencecan produce learning behavior. Immediately I see that the authors neglected to cite original work; citing, in one case their own version of the work (produced a decade later), and – worst yet – in a second example, adopting some ideas as their own without any reference whatsoever.

The two examples are from page 264, in a closing remarks section on neural networks.

They start off by neglecting the original work :
“.. it has been shown that .. a network with dynamic neurons and without synaptic plasticity is still capable of displaying learning-like behaviors (reference to Floreano and student paper).”

The original work is, of course, by Yamauchi, B. and Beer, R.D. in their two 1994 papers titled: Sequential behavior and learning in evolved dynamical neural networks (In Adaptive Behavior Journal) and Integrating reactive, sequential and learning behavior using dynamical neural networks (In the Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior).

The authors follow this by describing a perspective that has been put forward by Randall Beer many times and in many different contexts, in both written form and talks. Also by Inman Harvey, but I think slightly later:
“These .. examples challenge the more or less implicit assumption that neural activations are responsible for behavior and synaptic change is responsible for learning. An alternative perspective is to consider the brain as a dynamical system characterized by several time constants associated to various processes… Such a dynamical system perspective does not require us to make a mechanistic distinction between behavior and learning of the network.”

Interestingly, this is – in my perspective – the most sensible stand, although by far still not the conventionally accepted one. So, although I think it is great to see that he considers the position to be important (even though treated only in passing during the closing remarks), I think it is not so great that he has failed to mention the people that have either: performed the original experiments or developed the ideas further.

At any rate, the lamentable thing is that while this doesn’t matter for this area, because I’m quite familiar with it and can trace back the original ideas without much effort. I’m not so sure how I feel about reading about any of the rest of the areas that I’m less familiar with, from fear that much the same will be happening throughout this book.

It’s a trip back to the library for me.

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