Cyberpunk Review » Evolutionary Robotics: The Rise of the Darwinian Machines

February 5, 2010

Evolutionary Robotics: The Rise of the Darwinian Machines

Source: Public Library of Science PLoS Biology, via CNET Crave.

Evolutionary Robots

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) have published an essay by two Swiss researchers who are working with robots that “evolve” via darwinian methods. Pictured are a “prey” and “predator” robot used in the study.

Robots do evolve, and Chuck D. thanks them. Two Swiss researchers set out on what could be called an ambitious project: To show that robots can evolve like organic creatures… and piss off the creationists. While their work is considerably simpler than trying to evolve humans out of chimps, it does pave the way for better understanding organic evolution…

… and for a possible robot takeover of the world, or (if humanity is lucky enough) the emergence of the Borg.

You can check out the details from the PLoS site where you can download the PDF or XMS for leisurely reading offline. Caution: It is a scholarly work.


The results are in. In their experiments, the researchers used a “darwinian algorithm.”


This “algorithm” shows how the robots evolved during the various tasks they performed. Those tasks were navigation, homing, predation, brain and body morphology, and foraging (cooperation and altruism).

They found that, after a couple of hundred “generations” (loops of the algorithm), the bots were able to move through a maze without bumping into walls, adapt and change strategies for hunting and evasion, find their way “home,” and adapt to new bodies. They even found that, during the foraging exercises, the robots were able to cooperate in the task, and some even sacrificed personal gain for group gain.

These examples of experimental evolution with robots verify the power of evolution by mutation, recombination, and natural selection. In all cases, robots initially exhibited completely uncoordinated behaviour because their genomes had random values. However, a few hundreds of generations of random mutations and selective reproduction were sufficient to promote the evolution of efficient behaviours in a wide range of environmental conditions. The ability of robots to orientate, escape predators, and even cooperate is particularly remarkable given that they had deliberately simple genotypes directly mapped into the connection weights of neural networks comprising only a few dozen neurons.


It’s official… Humanity is SCREWED. Not quite yet…

As stated, it took these robots several hundred generations to do seemingly “simple” tasks. Humans have been at it for several thousand generations (and they still find ways of mucking things up). So it will be some time before we see a Cyberdyne series 800 model 101 walking down the street with an Uzi in each hand…

In the meantime, other scientists can use this new field of Evolutionary Robotics to further their studies…

and piss off the creationists.

This post has been filed under Rise of the Robots, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.


February 5, 2010

Traclo said:

Pretty neat!
I wonder how they replaced sexual reproduction as a means of both recombination and determining fitness. Determining which bot was most fit would pretty interesting.

Also we’ve been at this evolution thing for much much longer than several thousand iterations. We all come from bacteria ultimately so several million iterations at least to get humans seems more likely. 3.5 - 4.5 billion years is an awful long time to do it.

Unless we guide the robots evolution… which could be completely hilarious if we went extinct leaving the robots to argue over intelligent design.

Klaw said:

Those are totally Dalek prototypes right there…

February 6, 2010

Stormtrooper of Death said:

Interesting to read news from other science/AI teams. Not really my thing, but nice. What about simulating earth by using yahoo mass server systems or so, and see what would happen when a simulated nuke attack or bio attack on earth would result into. Thats also interesting to simulate and test.

Other things what is interesting , is how would these robots interact with ‘other’ external living beings ?

February 7, 2010

Shadow0 said:

So… what was up with this “AkImbo” posting two articles that were both removed?

February 14, 2010

Steel said:

Hmm, pretty cool stuff with the combination of genetic algorithms and brain/body morphology. One step closer to VNMs, I like it.

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