Re: Media update

Hal Finney (
Tue, 23 Dec 1997 07:44:37 -0800

Brian Atkins, <>, writes:
> On Nightline tonight, they were discussing future technology,
> including uploading via neuron replacement and evolving AI.
> They showed some cool video of what appeared to be evolving
> GAs in a "real" 3D environment. This was the first time I'd
> seen that, and unfortunately I didn't catch the person's name
> who had done it. Basically they started with a simple organism
> composed of two cubes, and let it evolve into successively
> more complex organisms based on how well they could "swim"
> through the simulated environment. The result looked very
> similiar to a sperm cell :-)

Very interesting! One problem with such simulations though is that
sometimes they are "cooked" so that a particular outcome is more or less
inevitable. There may be implicit constraints on the types of forms the
genetic algorithm can evolve, and the authors will have been careful to
set things up so that a sperm-like shape would be one of the possible

Could they take that same simulation, make the fluid thinner (like
air) and change the fitness function to evolve something that flies?
That would be a test of whether they had a good general model of evolution
or just a toy.

> I couldn't help but think about the
> possibilities should a 3D Cyberspace ever replace the web-
> would it become possible to evolve AIs by letting them grow
> and learn within such a system?

Theoretically, other "geometries" for cyberspace would not preclude the
evolution of AIs.

I've been reading Dan Simmons' science fiction series Hyperion recently.
(I can't really recommend it overall because much of it is terribly
violent and sad.) He has an AI society called the TechnoCore which at
first I assumed was an outgrowth of 21st century AIs. However later
in the series he claims that it actually evolved out of alife parasites
like our computer viruses and worms.

The problem with this idea is that it is hard to see how or why alife
would evolve intelligence. Current viruses are about as smart as natural
viruses, probably. And it's not clear how much it would help them to be
more intelligent. If you added today's AI technology into a virus, like
a fuzzy logic based expert system to choose a strategy for infiltrating
a new computer, it would probably not be successful. The virus would
become so bulky that it would be hard to remain undetected.

Maybe in the future things will change, computers becoming so big and
sloppy that smarter alife can find a niche. Then it may be possible to
see a real form of alife evolution where it smartens at least in the
biological sense, where a bacterium can be considered quite "intelligent"
in its adaption to its environment.