Much like humans and other animals, Pleurobranchaea decide how to go about their days based on an ability to assess motivation against memory. For example, if the slug remembers that the creature it encounters stung it last time, it’s probably a flee-the-scene kind of situation.
Sea slugs are also self-aware: They’re able to discern whether they’re hungry enough to take a big risk and bite the stinging thing.
The researchers plugged all of these factors into the graphic modeling program NetLogo, and then watched what happened. When the “slug” encountered two types of virtual prey named “Hermi” and “Flab”—after the sea-slugs Hermissenda crassicornis and Flabellina iodinea—it would either avoid or pursue them, based on how “hungry” it was at the time. (The artificial slug recognized prey based on virtual odors they secreted.) Essentially, researchers taught the AI slug to behave like it would in nature, complete with “feeling” and self-awareness.
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