Evolution Through Genetic Algorithms

Genetic algorithms are a subject somewhat beyond my ken. But it doesn’t take a geneticist or a computer scientist to comprehend the implications of the process. The possibilities are explosively revolutionary.

From our fellow bloggers at Q and O, a glimpse of what the future might portend. A slice to entice:

One of the consequences of growing computing power is the feasibility of generating improvements through what you might think of as a massive trial-and-error approach. Random variations are introduced into designs, and the results are measured against some metric to see which ones do best. Those best variations are then “cross-bred” with other good variations to see what comes out.

The result can sometimes be dramatic improvement over anything a human designer can come up with. For example:

At the University of Sydney, in Australia, Steve Manos used an evolutionary algorithm to come up with novel patterns in a type of optical fibre that has air holes shot through its length. Normally, these holes are arranged in a hexagonal pattern, but the algorithm generated a bizarre flower-like pattern of holes that no human would have thought of trying. It doubled the fibre’s bandwidth.

When I think about the application of this technology, plus the real genetic manipulation going on in biology, and the availability of information on all kinds of innovative ideas from search engines, I think there’s a lot of possible cross-reinforcement. Innovation has been accelerating throughout my entire lifetime, and it shows no signs of stopping that acceleration. The very pace of innovation picks up every year…

What if someone uses genetic algorithms to improve the genetic algorithms themselves? Will genetic algorigthms thus become more efficient and flexible? Will our lives someday be managed by a device that uses genetic algorithms to find the best way to satisfy our desires?

Read the whole thing, and follow the links. Amazing stuff.

Cross posted at Agricola.


1 Response to “Evolution Through Genetic Algorithms”

  1. 1 Pam January 10, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Amazing stuff indeed. We’re starting to get amounts of data – DNA sequences – that are impossible to analyze without pretty sophisticated bioinformatics approaches. At some point – all of this computing power and biology are going to merge – into something that I date imagine, but I’m pretty sure that it will be pretty amazing.

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