Mass extinction in a biological sense means wiping out valuable genetic material, but in robotics it may accelerate evolutions.
A team of computer scientists from the University of Texas at Austin apparently found that robots evolve more quickly when there was a mass extinction of current-gen robots. They’re claiming that killing off robots in a manner similar to that of the mass extinction of dinosaurs provides the greatest possibility of producing new behaviors.
The team subjected their simulated robotic legs to a neural network that underwent several mass extinctions. After several nukes the ‘traits’ that allowed these robotic legs to walk smoothly eventually surfaced. Eventually, the team found that wiping out the bots allowed them to see which lineages were the most evolvable—hence, their ability to quickly develop the ability to walk smoothly.
“This is a good example of how evolution produces great things in indirect, meandering ways,” said Joel Lehman, now a researcher at the IT University of Copenhagen. “Even destruction can be leveraged for evolutionary creativity.”