Estimating the energy cost of (artificial) evolution

Winfield, A. F. (2014) Estimating the energy cost of (artificial) evolution. In: Sayama, H., Rieffel, J., Risi, S., Doursat, René and Lipson, H., eds. Artificial Life 14: 14th International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems, New York, 31 July - 2 August 2014., pp. 872-875 Available from:

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This short discussion paper sets out to explore the question: what is the energy cost of evolving complex artificial life? The paper takes an unconventional approach by first estimating the energy cost of natural evolution and, in particular, the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The paper argues that such an estimate has value because it forces us to think about the energy costs of co-evolution, and hence the energy costs of evolving complexity. Furthermore, an analysis of the real energy costs of evolving virtual creatures in a virtual environment, leads the paper to suggest an artificial life equivalent of Kleiber's law - relating neural and synaptic complexity (instead of mass) to computational energy cost (instead of real energy consumption). An underlying motivation for this paper is to counter the view that artificial evolution will facilitate the technological singularity, by arguing that the energy costs are likely to be prohibitively high. The paper concludes by arguing that the huge energy cost is not the only problem. In addition we will require a new approach to artificial evolution in which we construct complex scaffolds of co-evolving artificial creatures and ecosystems.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:robotics, energy, evolution, artificial Life
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Environment and Technology > Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics
ID Code:23446
Deposited By: Professor A. Winfield
Deposited On:29 Aug 2014 07:26
Last Modified:07 Nov 2016 13:58

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