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Artificial Life Forms Evolve Basic Memory, Strategy

kdawson posted about 4 years ago | from the but-not-as-we-know-it dept.

Software 206

Calopteryx notes a New Scientist piece on how digital organisms in a computer world called Avida replicate, mutate, and have evolved a rudimentary form of memory. Another example of evolution in a simulation lab is provided by reader Csiko: "An evolutionary algorithm was used to derive a control strategy for simulated robot soccer players. The results are interesting — after a few hundred generations, the robots learn to defend, pass, and score — amazing considering that there was no trainer in the system; the self-organizing differentiated behavior of the players emerged solely out of the evolutionary process."

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Oh... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179022)

I, for one, welcome our new artificial, man made overlords

Re:Oh... (4, Funny)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | about 4 years ago | (#33179226)

Its allright, if they ever gain sentience we can defeat them with Vuvselas.

Re:Oh... (1)

trum4n (982031) | about 4 years ago | (#33179712)

Yep, We're fucked.

Missing Something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179030)

Needs a Skynet tag!

Re:Missing Something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179084)

Actually it really does, look at the video it's called the "Skiinet Simulator"

Intelligent Design tag? (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33179466)

I would tag this as "Intelligent Design".

This is a very simple demonstration that something can evolve from simple beginnings, if the creator was intelligent enough.

A not-so-intelligent designer, OTOH, would probably prefer to create its beings in their final state because it takes more effort to create a system capable of evolution.

Re:Intelligent Design tag? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179674)

It's imho an illogical assumption that the universe needed an intelligent creator, but that the intelligent creator didn't need one himself. If you say the creator created himself, then I can also the universe created itself.

I think intelligence is an emerging trait. A system that I set up to evolve could come up with something that is more intelligent than me in the end. The rules are usually simple, they imply no limits that tell the system not to evolve beyond the intelligence of the creator.

So coming back to what I said first, the universe itself could be rather dumb and generated all the intelligence that we see, but assuming there was an intelligent creator leads to even more contradictions than assuming there was none.

Re:Intelligent Design tag? (2, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33179728)

It's imho an illogical assumption that the universe needed an intelligent creator, but that the intelligent creator didn't need one himself

I agree, but that's a second step in the argument. If they first demonstrate that intelligence can emerge from a non-intelligent system, then it's an obvious corollary that intelligence wasn't necessary to create the non-intelligent system in the first place.

Re:Intelligent Design tag? (1)

Vesuvias (584893) | about 4 years ago | (#33179964)

It's imho an illogical assumption that the universe needed an intelligent creator, but that the intelligent creator didn't need one himself. If you say the creator created himself, then I can also the universe created itself.

Maybe but I think your limiting your imagination here in your thought experiment. String theory postulates that there could be as many 10^500 other distinctive universes (branes?) out there beyond ours. The physical rules in those universes maybe even more friendly to the emergence of intelligent life than ours. Perhaps an intelligent creator originated in one of those universes. Though our constants seem to be rather uniquely and curiously tuned to support life here in this universe anyway.

I think intelligence is an emerging trait. A system that I set up to evolve could come up with something that is more intelligent than me in the end. The rules are usually simple, they imply no limits that tell the system not to evolve beyond the intelligence of the creator.

So coming back to what I said first, the universe itself could be rather dumb and generated all the intelligence that we see, but assuming there was an intelligent creator leads to even more contradictions than assuming there was none.

An intelligent creator may seem less likely in your opinion but I don't think it has more contradictions inherently. Remember in the end we all extrapolating from ONE POINT of data when we talk about intelligence. Life as far as we can prove only evolved on this planet. High order self aware intelligence as far as we know has only evolved in us. It is exceedingly difficult to say what exactly the odds are for such things.

Re:Intelligent Design tag? (5, Interesting)

mdda (462765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179682)

Actually no. The evolution mechanism is really robust.

Basically, if you have a bunch of random individuals, and the 'evolution' just mashes a bunch of the better ones together, you'll see the increase in fitness occurring. But it's not just a small effect : almost any crazy 'mashing together' method works, and the adaptation will spark off unbelievably quickly.

I know this because I did this for my PhD back in 1995. I had a choice then between going the Neural Net path, and playing around with the Genetic Algorithm/Genetic Programming stuff. Simple experiments proved that making NNs 'do the right thing' was a fairly tricky process of getting things set up right (and your formulae had to be right, etc : a fairly sensitive procedure). But the Genetic stuff was amazingly robust : almost any crazy method of crushing individuals together will produce remarkable innovation and learning (on a population basis).

But don't take my word for it, write a small piece of code yourself. The literature makes it sound like a more exact science that it needs to be. As I said, almost any 'mashup' method will work - the 'evolution thing' will simply find a way to 'protect' the important stuff.

So while this looks like 'old news' in some ways, I'm glad that they've got an eye-opening application : More people should know how much the computer guys can add to the biological evolution debate.

Re:Intelligent Design tag? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179744)

It demonstrates that intelligent design and evolution are compatible as a description of how life can evolve.

Theistic evolution is probably going to be the next big push to get God onto the science curriculum. But they will probably refer to it as "guided evolution" or something.

God (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179036)

We all know, God did this, and evolution is fake. This proves it!

Re:God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179072)

No, because of some arbitrary distinction between micro and macroevolution

Re:God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179480)

Two Words: Novel Genes

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179086)

If God were real and just, all of the people who deny evolutionary theory would die of polio. Without evolution we wouldn't have the vaccine.

Re:God (2, Interesting)

starslab (60014) | about 4 years ago | (#33179110)

If evolution is the work of Gods, and we can refrain from wiping ourselves out in the next few generations, then we shall be as Gods... And if you follow the mythologies of old, we'll probably be just as stupid and make as many silly jealous mistakes as those very "human" Gods from back then...

Re:God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179324)

I'm a God today! You can go fuck yourself. I am the one and the prime! Bow before me, you worthless human motherfucker.

Re:God (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | about 4 years ago | (#33179996)

Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!

Re:God (3, Interesting)

V!NCENT (1105021) | about 4 years ago | (#33179562)

Evolution isn't some process, it's a phenomenon.

Genes get mixed and mutate and everything turns to chaos.

What survives and duplicates gets to the next level. That which dies cannot duplicate and dies.

How simple do you want it? This is where you stop thinking, God or no god.

Re:God (0, Troll)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 years ago | (#33179826)

God does the selecting.

Re:God (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | about 4 years ago | (#33179874)

Could be. Everything with religion can be mixed with science. Science is just there to try to understand what's there that is there.

If God does the selecting then you'd be talking about a devine plan (who gets to mate with who) and even that can be explaned with the Many Worlds Interpretation. Just as heaven and hell can be explained with multiple universes.

I do not believe in inteligent design, but I will also not deny other peoples believes, because who am I to claim the right to believe in what I believe if I deny others to have the right to belive in what they believe.

If you look at the top scientists, most of them believe in God :)

Re:God (2, Insightful)

Glonoinha (587375) | about 4 years ago | (#33180042)

If you look at the top scientists, most of them believe in God :)

Actually if you ask the top scientists, most of them will say they believe in God.
It's the most politically correct answer, but in their minds they are thinking 'no, dumbass, and quit asking'.

When I was young I went to Sunday School religiously. I wanted to believe, and I wanted to see the path.
After years of that, one day in Sunday School I picked up the one book it all centered around (the Bible) and asked the teacher if it was true.
He said 'yes'.

I asked if it was completely true and that all the answers were in there.
He said 'yes'.

Being fairly familiar with the book of Genesis (it was quite interesting, quite detailed, and the first chapter so I read it a few times more often than any others) and the story of the creation of the Earth, I asked if that part was true.
He said 'yes'.

So I said 'Where's the dinosaurs?' Blank stares all around.

I gave him my home phone number and said that when he had an answer for that one, call me and I'll be back. He never called. Now I'm a top scientist.

Re:God (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179918)

Considering that we had dinosaurs for many millions of years it seems that god is rather bad at getting evolution to produce humans.

Re:God (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | about 4 years ago | (#33179912)

Round in circles here we go...

Re:God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179370)

How does this prove it?

World Cup 2014 (4, Funny)

2phar (137027) | about 4 years ago | (#33179050)

Wow look at that teamwork.. maybe those guys could represent England?

Re:World Cup 2014 (4, Funny)

captain_dope_pants (842414) | about 4 years ago | (#33179066)

No, they appear to have some skill and cohesion as a team - ther no place for that in the England side :)

Re:World Cup 2014 (3, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 4 years ago | (#33179098)

Can they snatch defeat from the jaws of Victory?

will there be video replay then? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33179836)

will there be video replay then?

Re:World Cup 2014 (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about 4 years ago | (#33179926)

More like, snatch utter, unmitigated defeat from the jaws of defeat.

Re:World Cup 2014 (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#33179156)

They probably could until the manager stuck his oar in and screwed it up

Not really amazing... (4, Informative)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 4 years ago | (#33179106)

"amazing considering that there was no trainer in the system;"

Not really, it's merely selecting patterns it is not aware of if it's patterns are "successful" or not. If you run a pattern generator long enough you can get all possible patterns within a finite possibility space.

Re:Not really amazing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179126)

Great, they've evolved politics.

Re:Not really amazing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179136)

You mean like humans?

Re:Not really amazing... (2, Insightful)

bakuun (976228) | about 4 years ago | (#33179158)

I don't get why this has been modded "funny". It's true. Just like monkeys tapping away at keyboards in order to generate the works of Shakespeare, a computer can generate player algorithm patterns that work well in this particular setting. The speed is just boosted by selectively choosing the ones that match whatever it is you want to get at the end.

Re:Not really amazing... (5, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179284)

The fun thing is that these robots truly have a one-track mind. They do not learn -at all- within one generation, even if they have a brain that is relatively similar to ours. The brain is configured -entirely- at "birth" by the natural selection algorithm.

And yet they display a few remarkably human traits, that seem to -but don't- indicate learning. Memory. Strategy. Having a strategy responding to the "enemy". Yet by most standards -they don't think during the game. This makes one wonder ... is the fact that humans have memory, adapt "somewhat", devise strategy really an indication of the level of thought we think humans have ?

Makes one wonder just how one-track the human mind is. Everyone likes to always accuse everyone else of "not seeing the truth" about very nontrivial problems. Are people really "seeing the truth" or just repeating what they were programmed ?

History of science definitely seems to agree with the "programmed" argument. Other histories ... even more. We are mindless automatons, we just like to think we aren't.

Re:Not really amazing... (4, Interesting)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | about 4 years ago | (#33179396)

Depends on what level of perspective you want to look at. If you look at simple tasks and abilities, yes, a human will learn and think (some more than others) over the course of his life. It is evident if you take for example twins that grow in different environments, they get to have different abilities and understanding of the world.

OTOH if you widen your view and look at how humans interact between each other (i.e. society), how they think (technology, culture), and other things like that they don't really learn anything during their life. That's where evolution kicks in, people born in different generations have different ways of interacting and thinking. Some are behind their times while others are ahead which I see as a normal mutation, if you will, that can be a succesful one or a failing one. But even revolutionary people become conservatives after a certain age. That's why people die, that's how society evolves.

Yes, it's not all black and white like I made it sound, some things in the first category are inate and some in the secondary can still be modified by experience but I think my point was properly made.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33179550)

The speed is just boosted by selectively choosing the ones that match whatever it is you want to get at the end.

There's a huge difference in purpose.

You can move around at random, like a particle floating in the sea. If you follow that particle long enough you'll visit every port of the ocean.

Now assume you want to go somewhere. Your movement will be constantly changed by random factors so you will need to make corrections but in the end you'll get to the place you wanted.

No two ships follow exactly the same route in the ocean, their path may differ by a few meters or by several kilometers, but in the end they will get to the same port.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 4 years ago | (#33179610)

Genetic/Evolutionary Algorithms is best (but not often) summed up as A Directed Random Search.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

mdda (462765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179906)

Ahh - but you are muddying the waters (perhaps intentionally) with the loading word 'Directed'.

One can take the word 'directed' and infer that there must be an intelligent Director.

Alternatively, simply understand that the 'directed' means that there's a direction (like a vector) that leads to improvement. And that vector is just pointing there because if it pointed elsewhere things would get worse... There doesn't need to be any external Director - just like a compass needle doesn't need to be guided alone magnetic field lines, the direction of the search/evolution is a self-directing process.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 years ago | (#33179668)

I don't get why this has been modded "funny". It's true. Just like monkeys tapping away at keyboards in order to generate the works of Shakespeare, a computer can generate player algorithm patterns that work well in this particular setting. The speed is just boosted by selectively choosing the ones that match whatever it is you want to get at the end.

And this teeny little boost is the difference between getting what you want before or after the monkeys and the computer disappear from proton decay [wikipedia.org] .

Seriously. Any argument that includes "assuming infinite time" belongs in the sphere of theology, not computer science.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | about 4 years ago | (#33179706)

I don't get why this has been modded "funny".

Let's check out the parent post:

Not really, it's merely selecting patterns it is not aware of if it's patterns are "successful" or not.

Author ascribes awareness to the selection process. Grammatical ambiguity related to uses of "it's" some people may also consider to be funny--change the first "it's" to "its" for comical effects.

If you run a pattern generator long enough you can get all possible patterns within a finite possibility space.

Now that's just plain LOL. Even if we assume that the pattern space is finite, which is not clear at all, given that we're dealing here with velocities, possibly even classical chaos, the dimension of the space must be humongous, thus evolutive algoritms.

Re:Not really amazing... (2, Insightful)

TranceThrust (1391831) | about 4 years ago | (#33179180)

The question of course is how large this search space is in comparison to the samples tried from it, to determine whether it really is amazing or not.

Re:Not really amazing... (2, Insightful)

metageek (466836) | about 4 years ago | (#33179188)

In evolution what is important is selection, as long as there is selection (based on fitness) and variability the system will adapt to the environment (the things that shape fitness). So there is a trainer, it is called selection.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 4 years ago | (#33179266)

"In evolution what is important is selection, as long as there is selection (based on fitness) and variability the system will adapt to the environment (the things that shape fitness). So there is a trainer, it is called selection."

Not exactly. Unless variability is driven, selection and variability *may* press the system to fit the environment. But there's no security: the system may be destroyed as well.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

mdda (462765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179936)

" But there's no security: the system may be destroyed as well. "

That's extraordinarily unlikely. Granted, if you're only looking at a single individual, mutations/breeding may cause catastrophic changes.

But on a population-wide basis, sudden overall declines in 'best individual' fitness are pretty much impossible.

Re:Not really amazing... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179194)

Indeed, the scoring function is here the trainer. The design(er) of the neural networks also helps to direct the process.

Of course, still a nice optimization problem, tuning such networks by hand would probably be a major task.

Re:Not really amazing... (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 years ago | (#33179202)

You do have to be a bit careful, though--- sometimes there is a hidden trainer in the system. In evolutionary algorithms, there are often a lot of parameters and data structures to tweak at the beginning, e.g., what kinds of crossover and mutation operators do you have, and what's your bit-string encoding? There are a whole lot of ways to slip in human domain knowledge of which things are important into the up-front engineering.

Re:Not really amazing... (3, Interesting)

mdda (462765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179708)

Not really. While the literature makes a lot of fine distinctions between the various cross-over methods/rates etc., in reality it's pretty academic.

Getting the genetic process going on a population is a really small amount of code, and there's a huge payoff to seeing it work for yourself (rather than using someone else's Black Box code).

The real key is that 'mashing' two individuals together to create a 'child' (evolution) is a whole lot better than creating a child as a random variation of one of those individuals (hill climbing), which is in turn a whole lot better than simply creating new individuals at random (monkeys at keyboards).

But you don't have to trust me. You should be able to code something up in an hour or two to see the effects. Don't worry about the details. This stuff really works.

Re:Not really amazing... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179992)

What's academic during the first few cycles turn into a significant bias during the next few hundred rounds...

Re:Not really amazing... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179232)

Saying there wasn't a trainer in the system is a bit of a misunderstanding really.

Evolutionary algorithms always makes use of a fitness function to define which generations are to survive and evolve and which are to die off, this is the case in the presented setup as well. Without knowing the project i'd guess they let the "teams" play against each other and let the winners survive.

If there wasn't a fitness function it wouldn't really be an evolutionary algorithm, evolution sorta implies "survival of the fittest" and all that you know :) The interesting part is observing the emergent behavior, in other words what we were not expecting to get out of the system. When the system doesn't have any knowledge of what a "defender" is, or what "passing the ball" means, it's interesting to see these well-known patterns evolve even when they are not specified, this is what matters to the AI researcher.

Other implementations of evolutionary algorithms may be fun (http://rogeralsing.com/2008/12/07/genetic-programming-evolution-of-mona-lisa/) but are not showing emergent behavior because you are asking for a specific output through the fitness algorithm. That is the main difference.

Re:Not really amazing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179248)

OH well BOO to you too, Mr I-Hate-Everything-Ever.

Way to insult the whole of existence.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33179508)

Not really, it's merely selecting patterns it is not aware of if it's patterns are "successful" or not. If you run a pattern generator long enough you can get all possible patterns within a finite possibility space.

It's selecting working patterns faster than random selection would.

Re:Not really amazing... (3, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 years ago | (#33179630)

If you run a pattern generator long enough you can get all possible patterns within a finite possibility space.

While true, this is also completely meaningless. For even trivial pattern spaces of, say, 512 bits, "long enough" would be far longer than the current age of the Universe.

Re:Not really amazing... (2, Informative)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about 4 years ago | (#33179858)

While true, this is also completely meaningless. For even trivial pattern spaces of, say, 512 bits, "long enough" would be far longer than the current age of the Universe.

Exactly, see here for an illustration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_program [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 4 years ago | (#33179932)

You've missed the point of course, not all information (or patterns) need to be generated, only a finite subset will ever needs to be found to be useful, to put it another way you can make a million variations of a fork, but it's still useful as a fork.

Re:Not really amazing... (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | about 4 years ago | (#33180054)

I bet it plays a mean game of chess.

Hooligans (2, Funny)

qpawn (1507885) | about 4 years ago | (#33179144)

The study also found that the artificial fans of the losing team started to riot on their own.

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179152)

Finally some news out of my school that isn't sports-, riot-, or rioting-about-sports related.

Re:Finally (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 4 years ago | (#33179304)

So you are saying that soccer is no sports?

What's the news? (3, Insightful)

synoniem (512936) | about 4 years ago | (#33179186)

When you program some evolutionary theory in your digital world and your digital world is developing some evolutionary lifeform that is news?

Re:What's the news? (2)

ChrisMounce (1096567) | about 4 years ago | (#33179212)

Someone mod parent up. This reminds me of the automated mathematician: if it's given rules that encourage discovering the Goldbach conjecture, and you spend enough time tuning it, then it's no surprise that it will eventually discover the Goldbach conjecture. Some debate whether AM actually discovered anything, or just found the stuff it was designed to discover (seeing as it stopped finding interesting conjectures after rediscovering all the known ones). But that's getting into philosophy.

Re:What's the news? (3, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179312)

You don't have to go into philosophy to get these. Theoretical mathematics will help you out here.

Suppose you had a "perfect" learner. One that tries every theoretically possible analytical technique. And then it manages to surprise you : it discovers existing mathematics, and perhaps a bit more, but nothing truly remarkable. That would simply be the result of a mathematical property of the "mathematical space" (the set of all possible mathematical knowledge, of, say all Godel-sentences) : that would simply mean that space is chaotic.

There are already known properties of the total mathematical search space : for one, it's not necessarily consistent (and thus not necessarily correct). It is known to be large: there is more mathematics than there are atoms in the universe (but it remains an open question if the subset of correct mathematical theory is infinite. Theoretically it could even be the empty set - that mathematics is fundamentally flawed).

Re:What's the news? (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 4 years ago | (#33179556)

The subset of correct mathematical theory cannot be the empty set, because if it were empty, set theory (which clearly is part of mathematics) would be flawed, and therefore there wouldn't be a well defined notion of empty set, making the statement "the subset of correct mathematical theory is the empty set" meaningless. On the other hand, logic also is part of mathematics, and therefore my argument may not hold in that case.

Re:What's the news? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179382)

Life in general is not much different. The environment/nature/the universe sets rules that encourage the creation of lifeforms, encourages them to replicate and improve their chance of survival. It's no surprise that life evolves and creatures develop memories, intelligence etc. The whole system is setup in a way that it is bound to happen.
Whether evolution in nature or evolution on a computer, the underlying principles at work are similar.

The main difference between nature and your goldbach conjecture example is imho that the complexity of the system 'nature' is much higher and the goal 'surving' is much broader and that this game in nature doesn't stop, since each step in evolution and some random factors constantly change the environment, in which the next generation is trying out new/modified patterns to survive.
One could say it's all information endlessly playing with itself and that certain patterns emerge that stay over time is simply the consequence that can be explained with math.

Re:What's the news? (1)

selven (1556643) | about 4 years ago | (#33179878)

This program was not designed to discover passing, defending and scoring. It was designed to win at soccer. The program on its own realized that passing, defending and scoring are good strategies for winning at soccer. The rules of the simulation do encourage this behavior, but they were not designed to - the fact that the rules of the simulation create this result is a perfectly valid discovery, even though it's a discovery that humans made thousand of years ago.

Re:What's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179216)

When you program some evolutionary theory in your digital world and your digital world is developing some evolutionary lifeform that is news?

Because normally with these things, nothing happens.

Re:What's the news? (1)

pyalot (1197273) | about 4 years ago | (#33179236)

If nothing happens, whoever implemented it sucks.

Too late to call this "evolutionary": (4, Interesting)

carlhaagen (1021273) | about 4 years ago | (#33179210)

A bit more than 15 years ago I saw a documentary on Discovery Channel featuring identical work being made by a brittish scientist / computer programmer. His software spawned simple "lifeforms" made up by basic 2D and 3D geometrical objects - cubes, cylinders, flat triangles etc., - that were then trying to evolve methods of how to most efficiently move and travel in the simulated environment they were put in - sometimes an airy environment with ground underneath them, and gravity, and sometimes an "ocean" in which the "lifeforms" swam. Minute after minute the "lifeforms" jiggered and bounced around like broken machinery, but slowly developing a method for moving and navigating that was the most efficient for their particular shape. He spawned caterpillar-like animals made up from chains of cubes, that slowly learned how to wriggle and crawl just like catterpillars and snakes do. He spawned randomized "freaks" that learned that sometimes managed to learn how to walk with their disfiguring, and sometimes learning that the only way was to throw some bodypart around to pull themselves forward. He spawned biped animals that slowly learned how to jump to move forward, an triped animals that learned how to skip from one leg to the other, to the third. He spawned lifeforms in a watery environment that learned how to rhythmically oscillate their bodyparts to create propulsion in order to swim forward and turn around. To me, this was just as impressive, if not more, than the featured story. As a curious detail to it all, the programmer developed his software in BlitzBasic, running on a heavily accelerated Amiga 1200.

Re:Too late to call this "evolutionary": (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179280)

Too late to call this "evolutionary"

Educate yourself [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Too late to call this "evolutionary": (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179764)

there is a really similar sim environment called "Breve" you can evolve behavior and locomotion etc. it's super fun. you can get it at http://www.spiderland.org/
-Simon

Re:Too late to call this "evolutionary": (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179908)

Right. And I have a girlfriend who lives in Niagara Falls, so you wouldn't know her, but she's really great.

How about some evidence besides "15 years ago", "British", and "Discovery Channel"?

Re:Too late to call this "evolutionary": (3, Informative)

whatajoke (1625715) | about 4 years ago | (#33180006)

Was it Karl Sims [wikipedia.org] ? Specifically this work [karlsims.com]

Err... what's the news? (2)

pyalot (1197273) | about 4 years ago | (#33179230)

We've been applying genetic algorithms with ANNs for quite a while now, quite often also making groups of them cooperate. yawn?

Re:Err... what's the news? (3, Informative)

lalena (1221394) | about 4 years ago | (#33179522)

I read the article wanting to know how the Avida developed memory. Basically, the programmer included an instruction that said "Do what you did last time" It is not evolution if the programmer hands them the ability. Also, when the goal stays in the same location every time, your robots can develop "memory" through the program itself. Ex: To go 2 up & 3 left -> Forward, Forward, Turn Left, Forward, Forward, Forward. No intelligence in the search pattern. This is simply memorizing the location of the goal. I would not call this memory.

I am very interested in this subject and get excited every time Slashdot posts a new story in this topic, but I never see any real advances vs. what I was doing in school 20 years ago. This doesn't mean advances aren't being made, but I think they are now at the level where they don't make simple easy-read stories. Real robots (not simulated ones) getting form point A to B (not just wanting to go from A to B) over rough terrain without help (mars rovers) is much more complicated and a required advance to put this technology into a real application. MIT, NASA, National Labs always seem to have interesting projects going on.

We celebrate these simple outdated advances in AI when we have hundreds of programs out there now capable of playing World of Warcraft without help simply to collect virtual gold to sell for cash.

Another reason I hate these articles is that they don't include any real specifics. You could learn more reading Wikipeida on GA, GP, ANN... It was a video of a Koza project that got me really interested in this topic. Why don't people include something like this in the article. A couple of years ago, I decided to rewrite one of my old projects so that people could easily run it online - Ant Simulator [lalena.com] . Watching the system quickly learn or solve a problem is much more satisfying than reading an article written by someone that doesn't actually understand the field.

Re:Err... what's the news? (2, Informative)

mdda (462765) | about 4 years ago | (#33179734)

Memory for Genetic Programming was an interesting topic back in 1995 too... And the first Koza book was an inspiration.

One way to test out 'memory' in an experimental was is to give the individuals some 'memory cells' (or internal preserved state) to work with, and then A/B test some of the good individuals vs. the same individuals with noise added to the memory cells. In that way, one can get a handle on whether/how they're really making use of the memory. Just like adding junk code into a buggy program to see what's actually getting executed.

One of the problems for the Genetic Algorithm/Programming people is that this stuff simply *works too well*. It's difficult to test hypotheses because the evolutionary bit will simply 'work around' you own bad coding decisions : so often experimental results are 'this was slightly worse at first, but then something really interesting started to happen'. Designing a really clean experiment is difficult : these populations are devious...

Re:Err... what's the news? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#33179778)

If you've seen any of the truly massive demos done in Conway's game of life you will rapidly see that actually modeling a physical mechanism for memory based on simple principles is going to take a metric assload of computing time. Actually, I think the actual value is somewhere between an assload and a fuckton. At this point it seems more like a useful separate experiment.

Addendum to first article is pretty good (5, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | about 4 years ago | (#33179238)

In the late 1980s, ecologist Thomas Ray, who is now at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, got wind of Core Wars and saw its potential for studying evolution. He built Tierra, a computerised world populated by self-replicating programs that could make errors as they reproduced.

When the cloned programs filled the memory space available to them, they began overwriting existing copies. Then things changed. The original program was 80 lines long, but after some time Ray saw a 79-line program appear, then a 78-line one. Gradually, to fit more copies in, the programs trimmed their own code, one line at a time. Then one emerged that was 45 lines long. It had eliminated its copy instruction, and replaced it with a shorter piece of code that allowed it to hijack the copying code of a longer program. Digital evolvers had arrived, and a virus was born.

Avida is Tierra's rightful successor. Its environment can be made far more complex, it allows for more flexibility and more analysis, and - crucially - its organisms can't use each other's code. That makes them more life-like than the inhabitants of Tierra.

Actually, organisms using each others code sounds way more like our world than ones that can't leech off each other. They already pointed out viruses, and plenty of species exist today that need other species to continue to survive.. in fact pretty much all animals need to eat other lifeforms because we can't draw energy from the sun directly.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (0, Offtopic)

PietjeJantje (917584) | about 4 years ago | (#33179294)

Organisms can perfectly draw energy directly from the sun, and animals and humans still do (such as vitamine D production). The point is it wouldn't be energy efficient for a moving organism. A tree can grow huge, but a moving tree (the animal) couldn't. Surface, size, gravity, all that. Then it's much more efficient to get the contained energy from other organisms by eating them.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 4 years ago | (#33179368)

Organisms can perfectly draw energy directly from the sun, and animals and humans still do (such as vitamin D production).

      As a physician I find your statement ludicrous. While there is a photochemical step in the synthesis of vitamin D it's hardly fair calling a double bond being split by a photon as "drawing energy" from the sun. For that matter you could say that the dimerization of thymine in DNA by sunlight (which produces the genetic damage observed when a person is exposed to UV radiation) is another way we "draw energy" from the sun.

      Humans do not produce ATP from sunlight. Period.

      And I would agree with OP - all organisms, including plants, are directly dependent on other organisms. Without nitrogen fixing bacteria to fix nitrogen for the plants, and without decomposing bacteria to release minerals again into the soil, even plants would not exist. While the organisms that are set up to harvest sunlight directly from photosynthesis are the biggest input into the food chain, they can't live without the rest of it, especially the lowly decomposers. We're now all totally dependent on one another.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (-1, Flamebait)

PietjeJantje (917584) | about 4 years ago | (#33179440)

You basically failed to grasp what I was saying. Why did we not evolve as big moving trees? Not because organisms wouldn't be able to convert sunlight. But because it would not be energy effective. I find your lack of understanding ludicrous. Period.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1)

somersault (912633) | about 4 years ago | (#33179526)

That was only part of what you said, the rest of which was bollocks, which is all he was pointing out.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1)

PietjeJantje (917584) | about 4 years ago | (#33179716)

Vitamin D from sunlight is bullocks? Reptiles warming up by sunlight is bullocks? Please, he was just waving his feathers.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33180056)

Vitamin D from sunlight is bullocks? Reptiles warming up by sunlight is bullocks?

The word is bollocks, Fool - that is testicles, not cattle. I suppose the misunderstanding is understandable, considering how little you know about biology.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#33179752)

All I have to say about humans drawing energy directly from the sun is that it's foggy this morning, and I sure would like to absorb a little more sunlight...

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1)

dollarwizard (1806856) | about 4 years ago | (#33179384)

in fact pretty much all animals need to eat other lifeforms because we can't draw energy from the sun directly.

What about algae? What about plants?

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1)

somersault (912633) | about 4 years ago | (#33179504)

They're not "animals".

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1)

Legion303 (97901) | about 4 years ago | (#33179702)

We should consult the school boards of Kansas and Texas, and possibly Oklahoma, before jumping to any rash conclusions...

Or not.

Tierra was - and is - really cool. (5, Interesting)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about 4 years ago | (#33179484)

In the late 1980s, ecologist Thomas Ray, who is now at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, got wind of Core Wars and saw its potential for studying evolution. He built Tierra, a computerised world populated by self-replicating programs that could make errors as they reproduced.

I was so amazed by the results claimed for Tierra that I went and reimplemented it myself [homeunix.net] . And damned if I didn't get similar results [homeunix.net] . At the time, it blew me away that such a system could come up with novel solutions I hadn't expected or 'programmed in'. Indeed, a couple times it took me a while to even figure out how the things worked.

Re:Addendum to first article is pretty good (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179530)

Actually, it almost seems like the beginnings of gender differences in the code. In a way, men hijack the reproductive systems of women in order copy themselves, once men insert their "genetic code" into the woman she pretty much handles the whole reproduction thing from thereon out. With this experiment you've got a newer program that is dependent on the reproductive abilities of others in its species. It's become more efficient by using a truncated version of its "genetic" code. This kind of matches up with XX and XY chromosomes with males and females. It'll be interesting if the 45 line program propagates and the original code adapts to this evolution by shedding lines of code of it's own to take advantage of this.

True fooball (soccer) behaviour (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 years ago | (#33179320)

The robots need to become spoiled, overpaid millionaires, who refuse to train (France). Brag a lot (England) that their opponent is a bunch of "boys" (Germany), who are afraid of them. Then take a 4-1 shellacking from the "boys." And despite being the defending champions, and having a world class league in their country, bow out early. Because all of the players in their first class league are from South America (Italy), and the they have no good domestic players.

Robots with vuvuzelas? No, thanks. My next nightmare.

Re:True fooball (soccer) behaviour (0)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 4 years ago | (#33179554)

I , for one, welcome our new robotic vuvuzela-playing overlords.

Religion? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33179326)

Eh, they can play soccer, not too impressive. Check back when they evolve their own religion, that would be impressive.

Re:Religion? (2, Funny)

sincewhen (640526) | about 4 years ago | (#33179412)

Where were you during the World Cup?

Soccer is a religion!

Re:Religion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179558)

You can calculate a fourier transform in n*log(n) time? YAWN! Wake me up when your algo has a GUI that exports the results to Excel.

Anything new here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33179376)

This looks like something that I could have read in 1982.

the self-organizing differentiated behavior of the players emerged solely out of the evolutionary process.

This is the problem with AI research. The notion that we can bootstrap life by mimicking evolution is crazy. Computers are getting faster, but billions of years multiplied by billions of neurons per organism they can't do" Nobody gives a shit what their sex robot "emerged solely out of," they just want to fuck it.

Re:Anything new here? (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 4 years ago | (#33179542)

This is the problem with AI research. The notion that we can bootstrap life by mimicking evolution is crazy. Computers are getting faster, but billions of years multiplied by billions of neurons per organism they can't do" Nobody gives a shit what their sex robot "emerged solely out of," they just want to fuck it.

Of course. Which is why we are evolving algorithms to do things we find desirable (in this case, playing robot soccer) using components that already implement the desireable trains. Much like we have been selecting cows that produce more milk or meat over, I should think, several hundreds of (cow) generations. It's "human-guided evolution", if you will.

Is there a problem with AI here? I don't see it. You could, of course, implement a soccer-playing algorithm yourself. But AI lets you come up with better soccer-playing programs without having to invent and implement a better algorithm or a better set of parameters yourself.

Re:Anything new here? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 4 years ago | (#33179700)

Are you kidding? This is an amazing breakthrough! We've been waiting 15 years for this, for the past 50 years.

AI or Bio? (2)

sammysheep (537812) | about 4 years ago | (#33179450)

I'm always confused if these discoveries are supposed to show that we'll someday have sentient robots that will rule the world a la every sci-fi for the past decade or if they are trying to model biological evolution in a meaningful way. Personally, I hope the sentient robot thing is NP-complete. :P

For modeling biological evolution, any in silico organism model needs to incorporate the fact that most mutations are "nearly neutral" (some might say slightly deleterious) with respect to the scoring algorithm (selection) while the next largest group is deleterious, and only a small fraction are beneficial. Not every "bit" (base) in a genome has the same value, and certainly that value is related to its context. In the genome mutation can strike anywhere although some places may be lethal so it will never be expressed in a breeding organism. In AI there may be restrictions on the parameters that can change, but in the genome mutations can produce some pretty nasty defects. It's actually the relative badness of those defects which gives selection the power to weed out unfit individuals before the defect can become fixed [wikipedia.org] . However, in biological evolution, defects can and do become fixed, either being linked [wikipedia.org] with good traits or because there isn't sufficient selection power to get rid of them. Thus, after many many generations of "optimizing" the robots should also manifest situations where they do "stupid" things routinely because the "good" things they do are "linked" to the bad things they do on the coding level.

Background Bibliography? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33180010)

I just read this article and found it quite interesting.
I do have a few ideas about how I would face the design of a system like that. However, I am not used to design such systems, and I would like to go deeper in the subject.
Can anyone recommend some good books/papers about it ?

Thanks a lot.

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