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Acuitas update thread
 
 

Acuitas development is ongoing. I’ve decided I’d like to drop regular updates here, and I’ll collect them in this thread.

This month I was after two things: first, the ability to process commands, and second, the first feeble stabs at what I’m calling “motivated communication” ... the deliberate use of speech as part of problem solving.

To get commands working, I first had to set up detection of imperative sentences in the text processing blocks. Once a user input is determined to be a command, the conversation engine hands it back to the Executive thread. The Executive then uses a bunch of the reasoning tools I’ve already built (exploring backward and forward in the cause-and-effect database, matching against the goal list, etc.) to determine both whether Acuitas *can* fulfill the command, and whether Acuitas *wants* to. Then either Acuitas executes the command, or he gives an appropriate response based on the reason why he won’t.

With all of that in place, I was finally able to exercise the “to user” version of the Read action, order Acuitas to “read a story to me,” and watch him grab a randomly selected story file from his “inventory” and read it out loud. (Asking for a specific story also works.) After working out all the bugs involved in story reading, I also tried “Repel me” and it just happened. Acuitas readily kicked me out of Windows and played annoying noises.

But the commands that are met with a flat refusal are almost as much fun. If Acuitas doesn’t want to do something, then he won’t bother mentioning whether he knows how to do it or not ... he’ll just tell you “no.” In assessing whatever the person speaking to him is asking for, Acuitas assumes, at minimum, that the person will “enjoy” it. But he also checks the implications against the person’s other (presumed) goals, and his own, to see whether some higher-priority goal is being violated. So if I tell him to “kill me” I get unceremoniously brushed off. The same thing happens if I tell him to delete himself, since he holds his self-preservation goal in higher value than my enjoyment of ... whatever.

On to motivated communication! At the moment, Acuitas’ conversation engine is largely reactive. It considers what the user said last, and picks out a general class of sentence that might be appropriate to say next. The goal list is tapped if the user asks a question like “Do you want <this>?”. However—at the moment—Acuitas does not deliberately wield conversation as a *tool* to *meet his goals.* I wanted to work on improving that, focusing on the use of commands/requests to others, and using the Narrative module as a testbed.

To that end, I wrote the following little story, inspired by a scene from the video game Primordia:

“Horatio Nullbuilt was a robot. Crispin Horatiobuilt was a robot. Crispin could fly. A lamp was on a shelf. Horatio wanted the lamp. Horatio could not reach the lamp. Crispin hovered beside the shelf. Horatio told Crispin to move the lamp. Crispin pushed the lamp off the shelf. Horatio could reach the lamp. Horatio got the lamp. The end.”

During story time, Acuitas runs reasoning checks on obvious problems faced by the characters, and tries to guess what they might do about those problems. The goal here was to get him to consider whether Horatio might tell Crispin to help retrieve the lamp—before it actually happens.

Some disclaimers first: I really wanted to use this story, because, well, it’s fun. But Acuitas does not yet have a spatial awareness toolkit, which made full understanding a bit of a challenge. I had to prime him with a few conditionals first: “If an agent cannot reach an object, the agent cannot get the object” (fair enough), “If an agent cannot reach an object, the agent cannot move the object” (also fair), and “If an object is moved, an agent can reach the object” (obviously not always true, depending on the direction and distance the object is moved—but Acuitas has no notion of direction and distance, so it’ll have to do!). The fact that Crispin can fly is also not actually recognized as relevant. Acuitas just considers that Crispin might be able to move the lamp because nothing in the story said he *couldn’t*.

But once all those spatial handicaps were allowed for, I was able to coax out the behavior I wanted. Upon learning that Horatio can’t reach the lamp, hence cannot get it, hence cannot have it ... and there is an action that would solve the problem (moving the lamp) but Horatio can’t do that either ... Acuitas wonders whether Horatio will ask someone else on scene to do the job for him.

A future dream is to migrate this into the Executive so Acuitas can tell conversation partners to do things, but that’s all for this month.

Bonus material on the blog: https://writerofminds.blogspot.com/2021/01/acuitas-diary-33-january-2021.html

 

 
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Some of the things I did last month felt incomplete, so I pushed aside my original schedule (already) and spent this month cleaning them up and fleshing them out.

I mentioned in the last diary that I wanted the “consider getting help” reasoning that I added in the narrative module to also be available to the Executive, so that Acuitas could do this, not just speculate about story characters doing it. Acuitas doesn’t have much in the way of reasons to want help yet ... but I wanted to have this ready for when he does. It’s a nice mirror for the “process imperatives” code I put in last month ... he’s now got the necessary hooks to take orders *and* give them.

To that end, I set up some structures that are very similar to what the narrative code uses for keeping track of characters’ immediate objectives or problems. Acuitas can (eventually) use these for keeping tabs on his own issues. (For testing, I injected a couple of items into them with a backdoor command.) When something is in issue-tracking and the Executive thread gets an idle moment, it will run problem-solving on it. If the result ends up being something in the Executive’s list of selectable actions, Acuitas will do it immediately; if a specific action comes up, but it’s not something he can do, he will store the idea until a familiar agent comes along to talk to him. Then he’ll tell *them* to do the thing. The conversation handler anticipates some sort of agree/disagree response to this, and tries to detect it and determine the sentiment. Whether the speaker consents to help then feeds back into whether the problem is considered “solved.”

Another new feature is the ability to send additional facts (not from the database) into the reasoning functions, or even pipe in “negative facts” that *prevent* facts from the database from being used. This has two important purposes: 1) easily handle temporary or situational information, such as propositions that are only true in a specific story, without writing it to the database, and 2) model the knowledge space of other minds, including missing information and false information.

This in turn helped me make some of the narrative code tidier and more robust, so I rounded out my time doing that.

Blog link: https://writerofminds.blogspot.com/2021/02/acuitas-diary-34-february-2021.html

 

 
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