60-Second Genuis

John Long, author, biologist and cognitive scientist.
Date:1 July 2012 Tags:, ,

What can robots teach us about evolution?

“In our lab, we conducted predator-prey experiments with evolving robots engineered to resemble fossil fish. These fish-like robots competed to feed better and flee predators faster. We used computer models to keep track of genetic changes. From generation to generation, we found that the robots became faster. We were evolving the tail, vertebrae and lateral line, but not the brain. People assume that human capability owes mostly to our big brains, but much of what we think of as human intelligence derives from the way the body is constructed. We also learned from the robots that evolution does not always make for better design. The number of vertebrae increased until reaching an optimal equilibrium, but tail size and shape fluctuated. Ultimately, the winning traits were passed on, which, of course, describes evolution.” – AS TOLD TO ALISON BROWER