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[ba-unrev-talk] Fun article

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/10/books/review/10ZIMMERT.html?todaysheadlines    (01)

Digital Biology
Microchips, for example, can now evolve. Bentley describes how Adrian
Thompson, a British engineer, came up with a few dozen random
arrangements of transistors and programmed a computer to test how well
they did various jobs, like distinguishing between high-pitched and
low-pitched tones. The first generation of chips always performed
miserably, but some of them a little less miserably than the rest. The
computer saved the less miserable designs and combined them into
hybrids. In the process, it also sprinkled a few random changes into the
designs, mutations if you will. A few offspring could distinguish
between the tones slightly better than their parents -- and they
produced a third generation. By mimicking evolution for a few thousand
rounds, the computer produced chips that did their job exquisitely well.
But Thompson doesn't quite know how they work. To understand them, he
resorts to measuring the temperature of parts of the chips, like a
neurologist using an M.R.I. scanner to probe a brain.    (02)

....The strategy ants use to follow scent trails becomes a method for
laying out networks of cellphone towers. The way embryos develop becomes
a method for turning a small program into a complex one without any
intervention from a programmer....    (03)

....Bentley sees no real difference between digital biology and biology
outside of a computer. To him, there is nothing artificial about
artificial life: ''The first person to hold a conversation with an alien
intelligence will not be an astronaut, it will be a computer scientist
or computational neuroscientist, talking to an evolved digital neural
network.''    (04)