Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The bird men are coming!

...also known as: Some c++ for the hell of it.

From time to time I fire up a c++ compiler. I started my career out as a c++ developer and have written some fairly cool stuff over the years, I like to think.

Every few years I return to one of two problems, haunting me since my varsity days. The first: I've always wanted to write my own text MUD, from scratch. The second: Neural networks and code learning.

In the next few entries in this blog, I'll take on problem two, again*.

* I looked at mudconnect today to see whats out there.. man, muds are sooo retro. It's like playing a modfile and pressing the turbo button on your PC

Bear in mind I have no extensive formal education in neural networking or what passes under the deceptively cool sounding banner of "AI" in computer science.

To my mind, most of what they teach in AI, even at university level, is just rubbish. There is a lot of formulaic neural nets and that weird-as-shit algebra they apply to it. But in the end, all they are building is a system of weights and counter-weights which calculate a known result. Whats the use of that ?

I must give some credit to efforts along the lines of swarming and hive intelligence. There is definitely something to what these guys are up to. I realise some of them build neural nets into the swarming parts, but in the end thats just to get an "expert system", the AI itself never learns. It just gets better at doing a known thing.

Now, enough of my opinionated rant (hey, this is a blog) and on to some code...

The wind up
I work on linux, so all the examples and references here are in that context. If you are using anything else, I'm sorry. If you are using Visual c++, just fuck off, and take your crap compiler with you.

First, there is the makefile. I won't go through the details of a makefile here, there are many many many pages on the topic already, go read them. I opted for a simple makefile, foregoing my old nemesis autotools. I love autotools, it's a fantastic toolset, but I just don't have the time or patience to read up on it now (it's been years, I used to know the auto-book backwards.), and this is not supposed to be such a big project, so I will manage the makefile manually.

The project folders layout will look like this:

If you build it they will come

PROGRAM = zombie


OBJ_DIR = ./objects
BIN_DIR = ./bin
SRC_DIR = ./source
TST_DIR = ./test

CXX_SOURCES = main.cpp

TEST_FOO_SOURCES = foo.cpp test_foo.cpp

CXX = g++

all: $(PROGRAM) tests

tests: test_foo

$(CXX) $(CXX_OBJECTS) -o $(BIN_DIR)/$@

$(OBJ_DIR)/%.o: $(SRC_DIR)/%.cpp
$(CXX) $(INCLUDES) $(CXX_FLAGS) $< -o $@

$(RM) $(OBJ_DIR)/* $(BIN_DIR)/*

$(OBJ_DIR)/%.o: $(TST_DIR)/%.cpp
$(CXX) $(INCLUDES) $(CXX_FLAGS) $< -o $@

test_foo: $(TEST_FOO_SOURCES:%.cpp=$(OBJ_DIR)/%.o)
$(CXX) $(TEST_FOO_SOURCES:%.cpp=$(OBJ_DIR)/%.o) -o $(BIN_DIR)/$@
We will swap out 'foo' with something a bit more useful later on.

Building blocks
I'll try and run through this in the same way that I approached the programming.

First off, we need to sense of what we want to build. The idea is to build a learning brain. Thats a very ambitious statement, but not if you brack it down into it's component parts.... Lets start with building a brain. The idea is that if we build a half decent brain, the learning will take care of itself.

So, building blocks: Brains have neurons, our brain will need them too. Moreover, brains have functional groups of neurons, networks of them that all work together to achieve the same goal. So we will need 'nets'. That is 1 brain, many nets per brain, many neurons per net.

To keep things simple on the code front, I've decided to only deal with integers (int) for now. You will later see that swapping this out with any other arbitrarily complex type is trivial. I just did not want to get bogged down with anything but the core for now.

So, some classes we will likely need:

I will also need some tests to verify progress and test parts of the classes. I will be writing these myself, that are fairly trivial. I will do a unit test program per class:
Something I should mention here is that every neuron needs to do something. Neurons store information, and act on that information. You can imagine it with logic gates, or in this case mathematical functions. I've decided to use 4 basic integer functions:


Next episode... the code

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