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Artificial Life

Winter 1997, Vol. 3, No. 1, Pages 41-49
(doi: 10.1162/artl.1997.3.1.41)
© 1997 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Is Neural Darwinism Darwinism?
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Neural Darwinism is a theory of cognition developed by Gerald Edelman along with George Reeke and Olaf Sporns at Rockefeller University. As its name suggests, neural Darwinism is modeled after biological Darwinism, and its authors assert that the two processes are strongly analogous. Both operate on variation in a population, amplifying the more adaptive individuals. However, from a computational perspective, neural Darwinism is quite different from other models of natural selection, such as genetic algorithms. The individuals of neural Darwinism do not replicate, thus robbing the process of the capacity to explore new solutions over time and ultimately reducing it to a random search. Because neural Darwinism does not have the computational power of a truly Darwinian process, it is misleading to label it as such. To illustrate this disparity in adaptive power, one of Edelman's early computer experiments, Darwin I, is revisited, and it is shown that adding replication greatly improves the adaptive power of the system.