Long-term Sabbatical

Darwinian design: from artificial life to evolving intelligence

PI(s): Robert T. Pennock (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
Start Date: 15-Mar-2008
End Date: 15-Aug-2008
Keywords: education, evolutionary computation, genetic algorithms

My sabbatical project extends two key lines of my research over the last decade: my philosophical and educational work defending the integrity of science from the attacks of intelligent design creationism, and my theoretical and empirical research on artificial life and evolving digital organisms. The main goal is to complete a book that pulls together these two strands by focusing on the theory and practice of digital evolutionary design. It will show how evolution should properly be thought of at a level of abstraction comparable to universal laws of physics, and will explain its power to produce functional complexity in biology and elsewhere. A secondary goal relates to my current research on the evolution of intelligent behavior. Both fall under the general research area of evolutionary computation, which instantiates the Darwinian mechanism digitally, allowing for experimental tests of hypotheses about general evolutionary principles. My book will not only deal with the research done in our Digital Evolution group, but also will synthesize the key advances in this new and rapidly developing field. My background research for the book has been mostly completed over the last six years; I have interviewed many of the pioneers of genetic algorithms, evolutionary strategies, genetic programming, etc. The extensions, both theoretical and applied, of evolution that evolutionary computation makes possible are still new and largely unknown. The story of this amazing field of research has hardly begun to be told, and this book will include some of the first accounts of its origins and development.