Glitchy Evolution in the Digital World

In recent decades, scientists have taken to trying to simulate evolution and learning with computer programs.  Unfortunately, like pretty much every other computer program, glitches are often present.  Here’s what happens when you combine evolution with glitches.

In this video, we see some snail-like creatures that have been subjected to 1000 times as much gravitational force as usual.  As the author says, this much force should simply kill them, and should certainly restrict them from being able to move.  Yet we see them moving around and quite lively.  What the author suspects is happening is that they are taking advantage of some weaknesses in the physics engine in the simulation.  What I suspect is happening, is that they are taking advantage of how the physics engine is dealing with the bullet-through-paper effect caused by the massive acceleration due to gravity,  probably by moving objects just slightly above the surface they are colliding with.

Here’s something slightly more interesting:

In this article, a researcher is trying to “evolve” a microchip that performs a certain task – discerning between two audio tones – using a computer algorithm to design the chip’s contents.  What he had expected to happen is that the chip would evolve some sort of complex digital logic to analyze the tones.   What actually happened is the chip evolved all sorts of feedback loops and “dead” circuitry that has no apparent purpose, but somehow causes the chip to malfunction if it is removed.  It seems to be using the dead circuitry as an inductor, much in the same way radios do, to “tune in” to the tones and detect their presence.  Essentially, a digital chip evolved to rely on analog circuitry.

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