Peter Bentley

Digital Biology

The Creation of Life inside Computers and How it Will Affect us

Headline Book Publishing 2001

KEYWORDS : digital universes - software that allows bits to reproduce, to be selected and to vary - evolution can occur on computers - evolutionary algorithms

pg 47

Digital Universes

In nature a very special molecule made from genes, called DNA, becomes self-replicating because of the laws of physics. In our computers we can write software that treats certain collections of bits in exactly the same way. These bids become binary DNA, which is capable of self replication because of the software laws of physics.

In nature, the laws of physics and the physical environment determine which genes are more beneficial than others. In our computers, software laws and environments can be treated to judge the effectiveness of binary genes.

In nature, the environment and mistakes of self replication cause DNA to vary and change. In our computers, the digital environments and randomised errors can be used to generate variation in binary genes.

In short, we can create software that allows bits to reproduce, to be selected and to vary in the digital universes of our computers. These programmes form the environment in which evolution can occur on computers. Although natural evolution inspired these computational techniques, we are not talking about simulated or artificial evolution here. Just as natural evolution and language evolution both exist, albeit in different universes, computational evolution is a valid and real form of revolution, which can does exist in our computers. The programmes that permit things to evolve in our computers are called evolutionary algorithms.


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