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Unnatural Selection

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.

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