Questionable Motives

January 29, 2010

Evidence for the power of natural selection: Robotic evolution. How so?

Filed under: Biology,Evolution,Science — tildeb @ 2:23 pm

Excerpt from PLoS Biology:

These examples of experimental evolution with robots verify the power of evolution by mutation, recombination, and natural selection. In all cases, robots initially exhibited completely uncoordinated behaviour because their genomes had random values. However, a few hundreds of generations of random mutations and selective reproduction were sufficient to promote the evolution of efficient behaviours in a wide range of environmental conditions. The ability of robots to orientate, escape predators, and even cooperate is particularly remarkable given that they had deliberately simple genotypes directly mapped into the connection weights of neural networks comprising only a few dozen neurons.

So far, evolutionary robotic experiments have been conducted mostly by computer scientists and engineers. Their primary interest has been to exploit the power of artificial evolution to automatically generate novel or better control systems and body shapes for specific problems. For example, the method of evolutionary robotics described in the context of cooperative behaviour has been successfully used to generate the control systems of a swarm of micro aerial vehicles that must locate rescuers and spread so as to establish a radio communication network based uniquely on signal strength of the rescuer mobile phones and of the robot emitters, a problem for which existing engineering solutions require the use of absolute geo-localisation information provided by GPS signals .

The use of real robot features are particularly useful in an evolutionary perspective where behaviour and ensuing complex physical interactions can significantly affect the interaction with the environment and performance. Therefore, evolutionary robotics also offers new opportunities to address issues such as sexual selection, division of labour, speciation, and, in general, the open-ended evolution of diversity and complexity in behavioural systems.


  1. I suppose we’ll have to gird our loins for those who are so good at missing the point: the creation of the Intelligent Roboticist.

    Comment by tildeb — January 29, 2010 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  2. Indeed – the most convincing argument for a god that I have heard is that ‘the universe is fine tuned’ – which is a parallel argument that will be used by most religious people to ‘disprove’ the evolution of robots – because ‘man (an intelligent creator) fine tuned’ the computer and engineering to allow evolution to occur.

    However, the point is that evolution works in the lab – perhaps ‘the creator’ created the universe fit for evolution and then let it do its thing.

    I am happy to contemplate this possibility, but in no way does this suggest that the ‘god of the bible’ is true. I am equally inclined to believe that we do not know enough about the universe to know how it was created to even suggest that it was ‘fine tuned’ – the universe itself could have been a product of chaos, and chaos as we know has a funny way of making patterns that look and feel remarkably ‘fine tuned’.

    I might add that the pattens produced by chaos theory have also been demonstrated in the lab – if you combine the two theories together you get a very convincing argument for there being no intelligent creator at all.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — January 30, 2010 @ 10:27 am | Reply

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