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The Surprising Creativity of Digital Evolution: A Collection of Anecdotes from the Evolutionary Computation and Artificial Life Research Communities

Joel Lehman 1 Jeff Clune 2 Dusan Misevic 3 Christoph Adami 4 Julie Beaulieu 5 Peter J. Bentley 6 Samuel Bernard 7 Guillaume Beslon 8, 9 David M. Bryson 4 Nick Cheney 2 Antoine Cully 10 Stéphane Doncieux 11 Fred C. Dyer 4 Kai Olav Ellefsen 12 Robert Feldt 13 Stephan Fischer 8 Stephanie Forrest 14 Antoine Frenoy 15 Christian Gagneé 5 Leni Le Goff 11 Laura M. Grabowski 16 Babak Hodjat 17 Laurent Keller 18 Carole Knibbe 8, 9 Peter Krcah 19 Richard E. Lenski 4 Hod Lipson 20 Robert Maccurdy 21 Carlos Maestre 11 Risto Miikkulainen 17 Sara Mitri 22 David E. Moriarty 23 Jean-Baptiste Mouret 24 Anh Nguyen 25 Charles Ofria 4 Marc Parizeau 26 David Parsons 27, 8 Robert T. Pennock 4 William F. Punch 4 Thomas S. Ray 28 Marc Schoenauer 29 Eric Shulte 14 Karl Sims 30 Kenneth O. Stanley 31, 1 Francois Taddei 3 Danesh Tarapore 32 Simon Thibault 26 Westley Weimer 33 Richard Watson 32 Jason Yosinksi 1
8 BEAGLE - Artificial Evolution and Computational Biology
LBBE - Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive - UMR 5558, Inria Grenoble - Rhône-Alpes, LIRIS - Laboratoire d'InfoRmatique en Image et Systèmes d'information
24 LARSEN - Lifelong Autonomy and interaction skills for Robots in a Sensing ENvironment
Inria Nancy - Grand Est, LORIA - AIS - Department of Complex Systems, Artificial Intelligence & Robotics
29 TAU - TAckling the Underspecified
Inria Saclay - Ile de France, LRI - Laboratoire de Recherche en Informatique
Abstract : Evolution provides a creative fount of complex and subtle adaptations that often surprise the scientists who discover them. However, the creativity of evolution is not limited to the natural world: artificial organisms evolving in computational environments have also elicited surprise and wonder from the researchers studying them. The process of evolution is an algorithmic process that transcends the substrate in which it occurs. Indeed, many researchers in the field of digital evolution can provide examples of how their evolving algorithms and organisms have creatively subverted their expectations or intentions, exposed unrecognized bugs in their code, produced unexpectedly adaptations, or engaged in behaviors and outcomes uncannily convergent with ones found in nature. Such stories routinely reveal surprise and creativity by evolution in these digital worlds, but they rarely fit into the standard scientific narrative. Instead they are often treated as mere obstacles to be overcome, rather than results that warrant study in their own right. Bugs are fixed, experiments are refocused, and one-off surprises are collapsed into a single data point. The stories themselves are traded among researchers through oral tradition, but that mode of information transmission is inefficient and prone to error and outright loss. Moreover, the fact that these stories tend to be shared only among practitioners means that many natural scientists do not realize how interesting and lifelike digital organisms are and how natural their evolution can be. To our knowledge, no collection of such anecdotes has been published before. This paper is the crowd-sourced product of researchers in the fields of artificial life and evolutionary computation who have provided first-hand accounts of such cases. It thus serves as a written, fact-checked collection of scientifically important and even entertaining stories. In doing so we also present here substantial evidence that the existence and importance of evolutionary surprises extends beyond the natural world, and may indeed be a universal property of all complex evolving systems.
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Submitted on : Friday, March 16, 2018 - 6:51:54 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, October 16, 2021 - 11:26:09 AM

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Joel Lehman, Jeff Clune, Dusan Misevic, Christoph Adami, Julie Beaulieu, et al.. The Surprising Creativity of Digital Evolution: A Collection of Anecdotes from the Evolutionary Computation and Artificial Life Research Communities. Artificial Life, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press), 2020, 26 (2), pp.274-306. ⟨10.1162/artl_a_00319⟩. ⟨hal-01735473⟩

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