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Evolutionary algorithms now surpass human designers

August 7, 2007
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Evolutionary algorithms now surpass human designers

evolutionary algorithms (EAs), which mimic the processes of natural selection and random mutation by “breeding”, selecting and re-breeding possible designs to produce the fittest ones.

Proponents of EAs say they could replace traditional methods in many fields from designing exotic new types of optical fibre and USB memory sticks to more aesthetic computer-generated art. Critics argue that the technique may lead to designs that can’t be properly evaluated since no human understands which trade-offs were made and therefore where failure is likely.

Nonetheless, EAs face challenges. A common objection is that some electronic circuits and antennas work fine, but the mathematics behind them is intractable. And if you don’t know how an evolved design works, how can you know when it might fail? But Koza calls that objection “self-serving and bogus”. “Like any design you can test the hell of the one solution you settle on,” he says.

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