Unnatural Selection

Posted 25 Jan 2005 at 01:26 UTC by steve Share This

An MIT Technology Review article offers a good introduction to the use of evolutionary algorithms for hardware design. By replacing natural selection with a user-defined fitness function genetic algorithms use random mutation and recombination of the most fit designs to produce continually better designs. The article includes plenty of real-world examples of the results including "a corkscrew contraption small enough to fit in a wine glass, yet able to send a wide-beam radio wave from space to Earth. It resembles nothing any sane radio engineer would build on her own." The article also touches on John von Neumann's "complexity barrier" and the origins of genetic algorithms in the 1950s.

GIGO?, posted 25 Jan 2005 at 13:30 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

It sounds like a lot of trust is being placed in the software running these genetic algorithms. Theres only one thing I can think of though when relying on a computer that heavily - Garbage in, Garbage Out...

Depends on the complexity, posted 25 Jan 2005 at 15:33 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

(I haven't yet RTFA)

I'd be very skeptical of a genetically-grown digital device with asynchronously cleared flip-flops, for instance, but a genetically-grown antenna should be pretty straightforward to verify.

robustness, posted 25 Jan 2005 at 17:54 UTC by Dozier » (Apprentice)

perhaps the antennae show good behavior in the simulation, but how robust are they in a noisy environment?

Genetic Algorithms, posted 26 Jan 2005 at 14:41 UTC by Masse » (Apprentice)

Genetic algorithms are (somewhat) notorious for finding flaws in the model and then exploiting them, such as the aforementioned noiseless environment. Noise can be added to the performance metric, but there's always the chance something else will be exploited. None the less, IMHO, they can create very good designs and are a valuable computer aided design tool.

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