Programming with Primordial Ooze; October 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Gibbs; 2 Page(s)
Computer programmers ascended the economic food chain by inventing clever algorithms to make manufacturing and service laborers redundant. But some programmers may one day find themselves automated out of a job. In university labs, scientists are teaching computers how to write their own programs. Borrowing from the principles of natural selection, the researchers have built artificial ecosystems that, for a few problems at least, can evolve solutions better than any yet devised by humans. Someday such systems may even be able to design new kinds of computers.
The idea of evolving rather than inducing algorithms is not new. John H. Holland of the University of Michigan worked out the method 21 years ago. But Holland¿s strategy, based on a rigorous analogy to chromosomes, is limited to problems whose solutions can be expressed as mathematical formulas. It works well only if a human programmer figures out how many numbers the computer should plug into the formula.