Good Essay On Reframing The Debate Of Using Animats As Tools
In the animal behavior research field, in order to learn something about biology, the two most common methods are building modeling of existing animals and building ad hoc artificial creatures’ animats. Whether animats are a necessary tool that offers advantages or animats are not useful for investigating biological principles, has always been a controversial debate in the field. A lot of scientists give their own approaches on this topic. Barbara Webb says that animats’ modeling is one way to discriminate the animals’ real phenomenon and scientists’ prediction. Matej Hoffmann goes against Webb and advocates that “animats can then be used as preliminary validation for animat models—without having to resort to comparison to animals at every stage—which may boost the productivity of research” ( Hoffmann & Pfeifer 317). In my opinion, whether using animats is fit with methodology should not be as important as both the sides’ debate, for every research method must have its advantages and disadvantages. It is worth nothing while both sides always tend to argue against each other, based on particular research tools regarding the nature of characteristics. In my opinion, the debate should go further to discuss how to combine animal modeling and animats together in the best way, which can retain both advantages and eliminate each disadvantage to help researchers in the most appropriate way.
In this paragraph, we firstly acknowledge and respond to two opposite claims. One of them is represented by Barbara Webb and another opposing one is represented by Matej Hoffmann. In Webb’s opinion, all animat simulations that we attribute to the science of biology must be exclusively regarded as models. Speaking of animats and their usefulness to science, all the work done, in this regard, can be credited to the investigation of artificial systems. The exploration of such systems is compelling, including all the technological application associated with, but they will never be regarded as part of biology. To expand the initiative, animat modeling and explorations on biology are two separate issues since we regard animats as “abstract, approximate, and not necessarily accurate and that they are used mostly for exploring general principles, providing existence proofs, and generating novel hypotheses” (Webb 282). Webb also points out the rationale behind the fact why other researchers argued that animats are better; hence, this is due to current limitation that hinders the researchers to come up with close to identical real models of animals that can represent the whole animal world, and this prompts us to rediscover artificial samples and use them in research. However, Webb always believes too many people ignore animats as the “perfectly plausible option of building abstracted, inaccurate and incomplete models of real animals”. Conversely, Hoffmann’s approach is that genuine exploration can present a number of obstacles and thus obstruct, in a way, the transparency of methodological purity; furthermore, improving the research methodology, the entire study can develop into a more productive research. On the general grounds, Hoffmann agrees with Webb’s two opinions that in biology the insights derived from animats can be relevant, to an extent, for the whole biological system, however, this development tends to be delayed. But Hoffmann then says, “We think that there are alternative validation criteria for comparison with real system” (Hoffmann & Pfeifer 317). The main point that Hoffmann disagrees with Webb is the validation of animats. Unlike Webb’s view of animats, which is abstract and worthless, Hoffmann thinks that animat is not a simple model; only simply modifying the reaction of a real animal. Without modeling overhead, Hoffmann thinks that “building an animat and using it to explain biological data post hoc can actually be a productive approach” (Hoffmann & Pfeifer 318). In addition, Hoffmann gives another advantage of animats, which is to reduce the bias. Although animal modeling provides focus to the search for hypothetical underlying mechanisms, it also inevitably limits and biases this search. Exploring animats, the involved parties can seriously boost up their research results, without even showing a priori objective.
Now let’s see both Webb and Hoffmann talking about the advantages and disadvantages of animats. Webb opposes animats because they habitually disturb the purity of research methodology, whereas Hoffmann points out that animats can make the research much more productive. However, I think both of them focus on debating with each other too much, while forgetting to compromise with others, and then figure out the most comprehensive ways to learn biological principles by using both real animal models and animats. I agree with Hoffmann’s view that Webb constantly thinks of animat as a model, which only demonstrates the human prediction and lack of exploration, and, thus, is not objective. We should come to think about creating a completely original animal-animats model, before other disciplines have started to inadvertently push forward their own innovative form; in such a way, we (biologists) can arrive at the momentum of accelerating the present research by introducing a brand new set of models that can be proudly announced to serve as unique source models for biology. In this aspect, the source model definition runs as follows, “a model that builds independently of our current hypothesis about a target system” (Hoffmann & Pfeifer 318).
After acknowledging the animal modeling research and animats analysis, we can look at these two tools more objectively. Animal modeling is absolutely real, figurative, and accurate. But, on the other hand, animal modeling has too many contingencies. As Pros and Cons of Animal Testing emphasizes, “Testing made with animals can mislead researchers with ignoring potential treatment and cures”. Every experience of animal modeling will give a different observation and conclusion, and it may ask researchers to do the experiment repeatedly thousands of times to evaluate the final conclusion. What is the reason? I want to pronounce the reason is that animal modeling is lacking of standard clear counterparts. The only way to solve the problem is to establish the frequency of possibility and then choose the most frequent sample. Comparing with animal modeling, animat seems more artificial, abstract, and inaccurate. However, since every coin has two sides, the animat’s biggest advantages are backward evaluation and productivity. Based on the two-method characteristics, we can underline emphasis that animats focus more on the biology mechanism principle and animal modeling focuses on the social-emotional behavior. For example, if we want to test whether the leg running action of a tiger is similar to a human being, we just can build an animat bio-engineer source model of the tiger to see whether its bone and muscle actions are similar with human-being or not, rather than catching up with thousands of tigers to see its running motion. Maybe, it is more realistic, but I want to say it is also a waste of time and money. We must admit that sometimes in the research field productivity and accurateness is a trade-off. But if we test the travelling birds’ communication and feeding and only use an animat, this will lead us to ignore the population’s internal cognition and communication. The result will easily go in the wrong direction, which we have already anticipated. In this case, we should combine animal modeling and animat together, because animal modeling gives less comprehensive data to analysis and draws the prediction, and animats give the backward evaluation of whether our guesses are right, or wrong. The reason I am giving this example is that I think in the animal research field, a few instances can be categorized clearly by biological mechanism and social-emotional cognition, and most cases have both of them, just with a different leverage. Therefore, the travelling birds’ example is common and can give an objective conclusion of my view.
In conclusion, the debate between the animal research modeling and animat’s is worthless. Because both have different benefits in their research field, and, in common, we cannot easily separate any research experiment from a special methodology field. So only the way of combination can get the least trade-off and best result.
“Pros and Cons of Animal Testing” HRF. (2014). http://healthresearchfunding.org/pros-cons-animal-testing/. Web page.
Webb, Barbara. “Animal Versus Animats: Or Why Not Model the Real Iguana?” Adaptive Behavior 17.317(2009): 296-302. PDF file.
Beer, Randall D., and Williams, Paul L. “Animals And Aminats: Why Not Both Iguanas?” Adaptive Behavior 17.296 (2009): 317-319. PDF file.
Matej Hoffmann and Rolf Pfeifer. “Let Animats Live!” Adaptive Behavior 17: 317(2009): 317-319. PDF file.