Sunday, August 3, 2008

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

Would jazz make any sense if you'd never walked through a city, heard a train whistle, knew speech patterns? Would blues make any sense if you never felt blue? Actually, would music make any sense at all if you'd never heard (or possessed) a heartbeat?

This, oddly, is an inspiration for VatLife.

Let's say the fitness function in a evolving environment is that a-lifes are rewarded if they can predict the next number in a sequence. So, let's say the sequence is 1, 2, 3, 4. It world not be difficult for most evolvable machines to predict the next number. 1, 2, 4, 8 would also be a fairly easy sequence to predict.

Now, let's say the sequence is 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9. Clearly, these are the base 10 digits of pi, but since it's not a smooth problem space to go from the first two sequences to that one, I don't think there's any way for a-lifes to make that evolutionary jump. Not without some outside experience. And even then, it seems necessary for the a-life to learn the digits of pi, rather than to figure that sequence out. It seems pretty safe to say that there's never been a human being born on this planet who could predict the digits of pi without some kind of mathematical training.

Could an a-life evolve in a different environment and gain the knowledge to be able to solve that problem? It's hard for me to picture that happening with that specific problem. But just as life experience in extra-musical domains is necessary to truly understand music, a-life experience from many different simulated environments may be necessary to solve the problem at hand.

Incidentally, this may sound like AI training, but I'm talking specifically about breeding ALs that are capable problem solvers. Although...this does argue for individual VatLife creatures with life experience crossing from one environment to another, not just their genotypes and controller IDs. And perhaps a VM that is designed with the goal of allowing VatLife's to pass knowledge between individuals.