Conversations I Wish I Had

Computer scientists find mass extinctions can accelerate evolution

After Big Bang

Computer scientists have found that robots evolve more quickly and efficiently after a virtual mass extinction modeled after real-life disasters such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Beyond implications for artificial intelligence, the research supports the idea that mass extinctions actually speed up evolution by unleashing new creativity in adaptations.

Computer scientists Risto Miikkulainen and Joel Lehman co-authored the study published today in the journal PLOS One, which describes how simulations of mass extinctions promote novel features and abilities in surviving lineages.

“Focused destruction can lead to surprising outcomes,” said Miikkulainen, a professor of computer science at UT Austin. “Sometimes you have to develop something that seems objectively worse in order to develop the tools you need to get better.”

In biology, mass extinctions are known for being highly destructive, erasing a lot of genetic material from the tree of life. But some evolutionary biologists hypothesize that…

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2015 by .
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