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Artificial Life

Winter 2019, Vol. 25, No. 1, Pages 50-73
(doi: 10.1162/artl_a_00280)
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The MODES Toolbox: Measurements of Open-Ended Dynamics in Evolving Systems
Article PDF (1.78 MB)
Building more open-ended evolutionary systems can simultaneously advance our understanding of biology, artificial life, and evolutionary computation. In order to do so, however, we need a way to determine when we are moving closer to this goal. We propose a set of metrics that allow us to measure a system's ability to produce commonly-agreed-upon hallmarks of open-ended evolution: change potential, novelty potential, complexity potential, and ecological potential. Our goal is to make these metrics easy to incorporate into a system, and comparable across systems so that we can make coherent progress as a field. To this end, we provide detailed algorithms (including C++ implementations) for these metrics that should be easy to incorporate into existing artificial life systems. Furthermore, we expect this toolbox to continue to grow as researchers implement these metrics in new languages and as the community reaches consensus about additional hallmarks of open-ended evolution. For example, we would welcome a measurement of a system's potential to produce major transitions in individuality. To confirm that our metrics accurately measure the hallmarks we are interested in, we test them on two very different experimental systems: NK landscapes and the Avida digital evolution platform. We find that our observed results are consistent with our prior knowledge about these systems, suggesting that our proposed metrics are effective and should generalize to other systems.