An interesting article talking about the progress, or lack thereof, in evolution of computer “life”.
A few choice snips:
On January 3 1990, he started with a program some 80 instructions long, Tierra’s equivalent of a single-celled sexless organism, analogous to the entities some believe paved the way towards life. The “creature” – a set of instructions that also formed its body – would identify the beginning and end of itself, calculate its size, copy itself into a free region of memory, and then divide.
Before long, Dr Ray saw a mutant. Slightly smaller in length, it was able to make more efficient use of the available resources, so its family grew in size until they exceeded the numbers of the original ancestor. Subsequent mutations needed even fewer instructions, so could carry out their tasks more quickly, grazing on more and more of the available computer space.
A creature appeared with about half the original number of instructions, too few to reproduce in the conventional way. Being a parasite, it was dependent on others to multiply. Tierra even went on to develop hyper-parasites – creatures which forced other parasites to help them multiply. “I got all this ecological diversity on the very first shot,” Dr Ray told me.
Hmmm… starts out complex and then gets simpler and simpler. Yup. That’s how Darwin described it. Right? Oh hold it. That was our side who said life had to begin with all the complexity it would ever have because RM+NS can’t generate CSI.
Other versions of computer evolution followed. Researchers thought that with more computer power, they could create more complex creatures – the richer the computer’s environment, the richer the ALife that could go forth and multiply.
But these virtual landscapes have turned out to be surprisingly barren. Prof Mark Bedau of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, will argue at this week’s meeting – the 11th International Conference on Artificial Life – that despite the promise that organisms could one day breed in a computer, such systems quickly run out of steam, as genetic possibilities are not open-ended but predefined. Unlike the real world, the outcome of computer evolution is built into its programming.
More Darwinian predictions confirmed? Hardly. Front-loading confirmed by computer modeling of evolution. Again.
His conclusion? Although natural selection is necessary for life, something is missing in our understanding of how evolution produced complex creatures.
Truer words were never said! 😎
By this, he doesn’t mean intelligent design – the claim that only God can light the blue touch paper of life – but some other concept.
Gratuitous disclaimer regarding ID required to get by peer review. Can’t leave that out. 😉
I don’t know what it is, nor do I think anyone else does, contrary to the claims you hear asserted,” he says. But he believes ALife will be crucial in discovering the missing mechanism.
Dr Richard Watson of Southampton University, the co-organiser of the conference, echoes his concerns. “Although Darwin gave us an essential component for the evolution of complexity, it is not a sufficient theory,” he says. “There are other essential components that are missing.”
Dangerously candid admission with only one ID disclaimer. Does this guy have a death wish or something? ❗
Here’s a clue, doc. The missing mechanism you’re searching for is commonly called “programmer” or “engineer”. Or in a more inclusive form a “designer”. 😛
One of these may be “self-organisation”, which occurs when simpler units – molecules, microbes or creatures – work together using simple rules to create complex patterns and behaviour.
Yeah, that would be one way. One imaginary way with no empirical support whatsoever. These things somehow just “self-organize”. No intelligence needed. They just poof into existence through some unknown laws of self-organization. Good science there alrighty. 🙄
Heat up a saucer of oil and it will self-organise to form a honeycomb pattern, with adjacent “cells” forming as the oil turns by convection. In the correct conditions, water molecules will self-organise into beautiful six-sided snowflakes. Add together the correct chemicals in something called a BZ reaction, and one can create a “clock” that routinely changes colour.
Ah, the old snowflake argument. The modern version of Darwin’s blobs of protoplasm are ice crystals. Now all that’s left is the minor detail of how snowflakes become complicated machines made of thousands of interdependent components each of which has its specification encoded in abstract digital codes. No great leap there. No sir. Space shuttles and computers, both of which pale in complexity compared to the molecular machinery in any single protozoan, form in same manner as snowflakes. There’s some real science for ya! 😯
“Evolution on its own doesn’t look like it can make the creative leaps that have occurred in the history of life,” says Dr Seth Bullock, another of the conference’s organisers. “It’s a great process for refining, tinkering, and so on.
What’s this? Someone gets it! Yay! 😀
But self-organisation is the process that is needed alongside natural selection before you get the kind of creative power that we see around us.” [Bullock concludes]
Crap. Spoke too soon. 😳
At least he got the requirement for organization right. Maybe Bullock will get a clue and figure out that complex things don’t just “self” organize like a magic origami. What a dope. Where do they find these clueless chuckleheads and how do they possibly get advanced degrees? 🙁