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Automatic discovery of self-replicating structures in cellular automata

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2 Author(s)
Lohn, J.D. ; Caelum Res. Corp., NASA Ames Res. Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA ; Reggia, J.A.

Previous computational models of self-replication using cellular automata (CA) have been manually designed, a difficult and time-consuming process. We show here how genetic algorithms can be applied to automatically discover rules governing self-replicating structures. The main difficulty in this problem lies in the choice of the fitness evaluation technique. The solution we present is based on a multiobjective fitness function consisting of three independent measures: growth in number of components, relative positioning of components, and the multiplicity of replicants. We introduce a new paradigm for CA models with weak rotational symmetry, called orientation-insensitive input, and hypothesize that it facilitates discovery of self-replicating structures by reducing search-space sizes. Experimental yields of self-replicating structures discovered using our technique are shown to be statistically significant. The discovered self-replicating structures compare favorably in terms of simplicity with those generated manually in the past, but differ in unexpected ways. These results suggest that further exploration in the space of possible self-replicating structures will yield additional new structures. Furthermore, this research sheds light on the process of creating self-replicating structures, opening the door to future studies on the discovery of novel self-replicating molecules and self-replicating assemblers in nanotechnology

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Evolutionary Computation, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:1 ,  Issue: 3 )