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A 30+ year old Msc. Graduate in Computing Science currently working in the financial technology sector.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Genetic programming

Here is what I think is a interesting chapter. Yes I know, we are focusing in emergent behavior but I can't help mentioning genetic programming.

As the name reveals we are talking about genetics and evolutionary algorithms. I'm no expert in the area but I will do fairly understandable explaination on the subject. It does not follow a strict emergent behavior, but as you mess aorund you may accomplish something which you did not expect and genetical research is to this day a far more complex area than for me to be able to explain. We still don't know what will happen if we tamper with our genetical code. So we can tamper with our digital genetical code instead =)

As stated before genetic programming is founded from evolutionary algorithms which began in the 1950s. Since it is computationally intensive its was mainly used for solving fairly small problems, but as we got more and more computerized it has become possible to use in a wider range i.e quantum computing. But the most fun part of genetic or evolutionary programming must be when it's applied in creature evolution. Basicly you have a creature with some form o limbs, and as genetic programming is applied the creature learns through generations of evolution to "walk" or atleast transport itself fron point A to point B. Watch the video below and compare the creatures movements and limbs as it evolves through generations of mutations.

As you can see, from generation 1 to generation 1000 it has evolved to a more efficient creature. This is done by mutation of the creatures movements and limbs as it passes through one generation to another as i.e. father to son. But how? Well, I said I'm going to explain it as simply as possible which basicly can be done by this illustration of crossover-mutation.

Lets say A is the father and B is the mother. They have a child which consists of genes from both parents, but sometimes a mutation occures contributing to a new gene not from the mother nor the father. This is a part of one unpredictable aspect of "human" evolution. If we look at the videoclip above, the creature goes through a similar processe between every generation, programmed into it before it is "reborn" again.

- But wait!? you say .... how does it know what are good mutations and bad mutations? Well, for the simulation in the videoclip it must have something to compare the evolutions towards. It can be as simple as we stated earlier - getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. If a generation of creature is faster than its predecessors the mutation was an improvement and therefor better to spawn new generations from. The mutation can be applied to the limbs movements, shape, size you name it. The mutation and inheritage between generations can be done in many ways, but for now I only illustrate the crossover-mutation.

As Herbert Spence phrased after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species - Survival of the fittest. The strong survive while the weak perish and that is what genetic programming has adapted in this case. I can imagin that hunters thousands of years ago were fast and agile, simply because the short and slow ones couldn't catch anything or became dinner them selves in the hunting process =)

- Tobias


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