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Artificial Life

Winter 2016, Vol. 22, No. 1, Pages 49-75
(doi: 10.1162/ARTL_a_00180)
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Maximizing the Adjacent Possible in Automata Chemistries
Article PDF (998.61 KB)

Automata chemistries are good vehicles for experimentation in open-ended evolution, but they are by necessity complex systems whose low-level properties require careful design. To aid the process of designing automata chemistries, we develop an abstract model that classifies the features of a chemistry from a physical (bottom up) perspective and from a biological (top down) perspective. There are two levels: things that can evolve, and things that cannot. We equate the evolving level with biology and the non-evolving level with physics. We design our initial organisms in the biology, so they can evolve. We design the physics to facilitate evolvable biologies. This architecture leads to a set of design principles that should be observed when creating an instantiation of the architecture. These principles are Everything Evolves, Everything's Soft, and Everything Dies. To evaluate these ideas, we present experiments in the recently developed Stringmol automata chemistry. We examine the properties of Stringmol with respect to the principles, and so demonstrate the usefulness of the principles in designing automata chemistries.