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Richard A. Watson

Richard A. Watson is a Senior Lecturer in the BIO@ECS Research Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton.

Titles by This Author

The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution

No biological concept has had greater impact on the way we view ourselves and the world around us than the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin's masterful contribution was to provide an algorithmic model (a formal step-by-step procedure) of how adaptation may take place in biological systems. However, the simple process of linear incremental improvement that he described is only one algorithmic possibility, and certain biological phenomena provide the possibility of implementing alternative processes. In Compositional Evolution, Richard Watson uses the tools of computer science and computational biology to show that certain mechanisms of genetic variation (such as sex, gene transfer, and symbiosis) allowing the combination of preadapted genetic material enable an evolutionary process, compositional evolution, that is algorithmically distinct from the Darwinian gradualist framework.

After reviewing the gradualist framework of evolution and outlining the analogous principles at work in evolutionary computation, Watson describes the compositional mechanisms of evolutionary biology and provides computational models that illustrate his argument. He uses models such as the genetic algorithm as well as novel models to explore different evolutionary scenarios, comparing evolution based on spontaneous point mutation, sexual recombination, and symbiotic encapsulation. He shows that the models of sex and symbiosis are algorithmically distinct from simpler stochastic optimization methods based on gradual processes. Finally, Watson discusses the impact of compositional evolution on our understanding of natural evolution and, similarly, the utility of evolutionary computation methods for problem solving and design.

Titles by This Editor

Artificial Life is an interdisciplinary effort to investigate the fundamental properties of living systems through the simulation and synthesis of life-like processes in artificial media. The field brings a powerful set of tools to the study of how high-level behavior can arise in systems governed by simple rules of interaction.

The rise of synthetic biology (constructing artificial living cells, engineering with living biological materials, etc.) and systems biology, with its focus on biological organizations above the gene (e.g., proteomics, metabolomics, etc.), means that topics proper to artificial life are becoming key research areas across science and engineering. Additionally, the kinds of agent-based simulations and complex systems methodologies pioneered within artificial life are growing in importance within a large number of fields (ecology, economics, sociology, transport, etc.). This makes ALIFE XI a potential watershed event at which artificial life has the opportunity to engage with, and offer a stimulating home for, some of the largest and most interesting of modern research questions.

For the first time, the proceedings of this multidisciplinary conference are available as an open-access online volume containing all accepted papers and abstracts.

A Bradford Book
Complex Adaptive Systems

Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems

Artificial Life is an interdisciplinary effort to investigate the fundamental properties of living systems through the simulation and synthesis of life-like processes. The young field brings a powerful set of tools to the study of how high-level behavior can arise in systems governed by simple rules of interaction. Some of the fundamental questions include:What are the principles of evolution, learning, and growth that can be understood well enough to simulate as an information process?Can robots be built faster and more cheaply by mimicking biology than by the product design process used for automobiles and airplanes?How can we unify theories from dynamical systems, game theory, evolution, computing, geophysics, and cognition?The field has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of life itself through computer models, and has led to novel solutions to complex real-world problems across high technology and human society. This elite biennial meeting has grown from a small workshop in Santa Fe to a major international conference. This ninth volume of the proceedings of the international A-life conference reflects the growing quality and impact of this interdisciplinary scientific community.