Andrew Philippides is a Reader in the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex. He is a member of the Sussex Insect Navigation Group and Sussex Neuroscience and co-director of the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics. His research combines biological experiments with robotic and computational modelling to understand biological systems. Two projects relevant to this article are: visual navigation in ants, bees and robots; mechanisms of neural learning. The latter includes the EU-funded INSIGHT project which is attempting to demonstrate causal learning by interfacing cultured neurons to a computer through a micro-electrode array.