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"Darwin inside the machine: A brief history of digital life"

18.11.13

 

The evolutionary dynamics that Ray observed was quite intricate. First, the 80 instruction-long self-replicator that Ray had painstakingly written himself started to evolve towards smaller sizes, shrinking, so to speak. And while Ray suspected that no program could self-replicate that was smaller than, say, 40 instructions long, he witnessed the sudden emergence of an organism that was only 20 lines long. These programs turned out to be parasites that "stole" the replication program of a "host" (while the programs were write-protected, Ray did not think he should insist on execution protection). Because the parasites did not need the "replication gene" they could be much smaller, and because the time it takes to make a copy is linear in the length of the program, these parasites replicated like crazy, and would threaten to drive the host programs to extinction. 
But of course that wouldn't work, because the parasites relied on those hosts! Even better, before the parasites could wipe out the hosts, a new host emerged that could not be exploited by the parasite: the evolution of resistance. In fact, a very classic evolutionary arms race ensued, leading ultimately to a mutualistic society.

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18.11.13

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