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Returning to our Roots

If a digital analog to the Cambrian explosion can be achieved, then it should be possible to establish the same kind of relationship to digital evolution that we have with organic evolution. We can go out into digital nature, and observe the complex products of evolution. While most digital organisms will have no application, it is likely that some will. We can observe them for interesting and potentially useful information processes. When we identify potentially useful digital organisms, we can capture them and subject them to selective breeding to enhance their performance on the application, and inhibit unruly wild behavior. We can genetically engineer them by inserting handwritten code, or code transferred from other digital organisms, or by rewriting by hand some of their evolved code. Eventually the product can be neutered and sold to the end user.

We have seen the tremendous creative potential of evolution when expressed through the medium of organic chemistry. We do not yet know the full potential of evolution in the medium of digital computation. However, the initial experiments have been very promising, suggesting that it is worthwhile to make the effort to push digital evolution to its limits. If digital evolution has even a small fraction of the potential of organic evolution, it could result in information processes of a complexity far beyond anything that we have experience with today. While there are many potential obstacles and technical problems along the way, the possible rewards for success make the risk worth taking. Yet it is a venture into the unknown for which we can not estimate the likelihood of success.

Thomas S.Ray
Mon Jul 15 15:51:28 JST 1996