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Art(ifice) Imitates Life

Wired has a fun survey of the use of biological properties as models for software and hardware engineering. The complexity underlying the living world, as it turns out, can be applied in useful ways to computer problems which would otherwise be challenging -- or even impossible -- to resolve using more traditional methods. The survey touches on evolvable hardware, genetic algorithms, immune systems for operating systems, and more. None of the topics are new for those of us who have been following the field of biological approaches to computing, but it's a good scan of the current state of the discipline, and an excellent introduction to the concept:

EMERGENCE describes the way unpredictable patterns arise from innumerable interactions between independent parts. An organism's behavior, for instance, is driven by the interplay of its cells. Similarly, weather develops from the mixing of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and other molecules.

SELF-ORGANIZATION is a basic emergent behavior. Plants and animals assemble and regulate themselves independent of any hierarchy for planning or management. Digital simulations made up of numerous software agents have demonstrated self-organization in systems ranging from computer networks to tornadoes.

REPRODUCTION was considered strictly the purview of organisms until recently. Now computer programs procreate, too. Genetic algorithms mimic biology's capacity for innovation through genetic recombination and replication, shuffling 1s and 0s the way nature does DNA's Gs, Ts, As, and Cs, then reproducing the best code for further recombination. This technique has been used to evolve everything from factory schedules to jet engines.

COEVOLUTION inevitably accompanies evolution. When an organism evolves in response to environmental change, it puts new pressures on that environment, which likewise evolves, prompting further evolution in the organism. This cycle occurs in many social systems - for instance, the interaction between behavioral norms and legal codes.

(Via Femtopizza)

Comments (1)

Funny, I wrote something about intellectual eclipses not too long ago. Interesting.


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