I have a single research objective: develop universal science and technology for universal autonomy. Autonomy technology -from the control systems perspective- enables keeping a target system pursuing its mission even under changing and adverse conditions. Tolerating disturbance is the core capability of automatic control, but conventional controllers have limited capability in terms of maintaining the system under control in any circumstance. Autonomy is good for economic and technical reasons, but is absolutely necessary for building dependable systems in many risk situations that violate design assumptions. Think for example in nuclear power plants, life support systems, extra-planetary vehicles, etc.
Traditional control technologies are adequate for control purposes in predefined, bounded operating conditions. Classic controllers are functional only in a small region close to system operational setpoints and most of them are incapable of dealing with faults or disruptive perturbations. Autonomy technology is not new. Some advanced control systems try to address uncertain situations (e.g. adaptive, robust, stochastic, self-tuning controllers) but with hard limitations. Uncertainty is dangerous and pervasive. It comes from the outer environment through imperfect perception, from the inner environment or even from the knowledge used to perform control or the controller itself.
Controlled systems, environments and control implementations are complex in almost all real situations worth mentioning. Human-based supervisory control systems are the common way to increase the percentage of plant operating time.
But humans fail; in some cases they are even not present. An a big question arises: What can we do to increase the degree of autonomy of the machines?
The answer is clear: better controli.e. more intelligence i.e more understanding of what’s going on.
Intelligence is just having better control for bodies. Look at the following definition from a well known dictionary:
ME, fr. MF, fr. L intelligentia, fr. intelligent-, intelligens intelligent 1 a (1): the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations: reason; also: the skilled use of reason (2): the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria.
= deal properly with new situations
= autonomous control
Intelligence is nota binary property. It is a more or less continuous magnitude, measured using an utility function in relation with some specific task in some specific context. The bigger the complexity of the task, higher the intelligence of the entity that performs it. This means, for example, that my handheld calculator is more intelligent that myself for some tasks (I hope they are few tasks).
Intelligent autonomous systems have minds that are Complex Control Systems.