Digital Life Evolves – Cool article about evolution and experiments

22 Feb

Extremely fascinating article about an experiment at Michigan State University that simulates evolution and natural selection, proving that so-called irreducibly complex systems can indeed evolve from less complex systems, and that life always finds a way:

Ofria has been finding that digital organisms have a way of outwitting him as well.

Not long ago, he decided to see what would happen if he stopped digital organisms from adapting. Whenever an organism mutated, he would run it through a special test to see whether the mutation was beneficial. If it was, he killed the organism off.

“You’d think that would turn off any further adaptation,” he says. Instead, the digital organisms kept evolving. They learned to process information in new ways and were able to replicate faster. It took a while for Ofria to realize that they had tricked him. They had evolved a way to tell when Ofria was testing them by looking at the numbers he fed them. As soon as they recognized they were being tested, they stopped processing numbers.

“If it was a test environment, they said, ‘Let’s play dead,’ ” says Ofria. “There’s this thing coming to kill them, and so they avoid it and go on with their lives.”

When Ofria describes these evolutionary surprises, admiration and ruefulness mix in is voice. “Here I am touting Avida as a wonderful system where you have full knowledge of everything and can control anything you want-except I can’t get them to stop adapting. Life will always find a way.”

I find this enormously interesting as it demonstrates how life as we know it evolves, and why we have for example, sexual reproduction and not asexual reproduction for higher organisms, why we have diversity, why there has to be death and survival of the fittest. This makes much more sense than the God explanation.


3 Responses to “Digital Life Evolves – Cool article about evolution and experiments”

  1. bishmanrock February 22, 2005 at 7:49 pm #

    So I’m on the interests bit, looking for who would make a perfect ACROSS member and guess who pops up (well, no suprise, I’m commenting in his journal).
    Thumbs up for the “world domination” in your interests!

    • bboyneko February 22, 2005 at 7:54 pm #

      world domination is definitely a worthwhile pursuit.

  2. xtoxicxstarsx February 23, 2005 at 3:33 pm #

    thats so freaky!!

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