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Artificial Life

Winter 2020, Vol. 26, No. 1, Pages 90-111
(doi: 10.1162/artl_a_00311)
© 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Death and Progress: How Evolvability is Influenced by Intrinsic Mortality
Article PDF (1.2 MB)
Many factors influence the evolvability of populations, and this article illustrates how intrinsic mortality (death induced through internal factors) in an evolving population contributes favorably to evolvability on a fixed deceptive fitness landscape. We test for evolvability using the hierarchical if-and-only-if (h-iff) function as a deceptive fitness landscape together with a steady state genetic algorithm (SSGA) with a variable mutation rate and indiscriminate intrinsic mortality rate. The mutation rate and the intrinsic mortality rate display a relationship for finding the global maximum. This relationship was also found when implementing the same deceptive fitness landscape in a spatial model consisting of an evolving population. We also compared the performance of the optimal mutation and mortality rate with a state-of-the-art evolutionary algorithm called age-fitness Pareto optimization (AFPO) and show how the two approaches traverse the h-iff landscape differently. Our results indicate that the intrinsic mortality rate and mutation rate induce random genetic drift that allows a population to efficiently traverse a deceptive fitness landscape. This article gives an overview of how intrinsic mortality influences the evolvability of a population. It thereby supports the premise that programmed death of individuals could have a beneficial effect on the evolvability of the entire population.