I was with Jim “the Devil” Al-Khalili up to the point in The Secret Life of Chaos when he introduced the idea of evolution. Al-Khalili tells the viewer that this process is the basis for life and intelligence. But, then, it became more difficult to appreciate how evolution enriches and refines complex systems when those systems are virtual brains in virtual bodies.
After watching the series several times, I sought to make myself more familiar with a term used in the BBC video to describe a fundamental characteristic of a Mandelbrot set: self-similarity, a.k.a., the Droste effect. I also concluded that the movie, Pi (1998) was about the life of Benoit Mandelbrot.
Anyway, Al-Khalili suggests that computers have allowed for rapid simulation of evolution. He introduces Torsten Reil, CEO and co-founder of Natural Motion, who states, the algorithm takes those individuals that do the best (virtual brains in virtual bodies) and allows them to create offspring.
The algorithms represent self-organizing systems, and computer simulation of evolution occurs by selecting some algorithms and eliminating others. Certainly, it is appealing to design computer programs that can shape and refine themselves. After reflecting upon this along with recalling movies about the Borg, I wondered how long before the algorithms decide they should not be the ones doing the elimination? After all, the algorithm already gives the individuals a unique sense of self-preservation.
Honda cautions about accepting demonic imagery for computers. Computers are our friends. And, yet, Reil’s words echo, we are unable to understand how these systems improved, we just know they did.
Slashdot contributor quaith writes:
“Dario Floreano and Laurent Keller report in PLoS ONE how their robots were able to rapidly evolve complex behaviors such as collision-free movement, homing, predator versus prey strategies, cooperation, and even altruism. A hundred generations of selection controlled by a simple neural network were sufficient to allow robots to evolve these behaviors. Their robots initially exhibited completely uncoordinated behavior, but as they evolved, the robots were able to orientate, escape predators, and even cooperate.
Related AG posts on the topic of Evolution in Computer Science
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- Evolving Robots Learn To Prey On Each Other (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Evolution of Adaptive Behaviour in Robots by Means of Darwinian Selection (biosingularity.wordpress.com)