About the GPEMjournal blog

This is the editor's blog for the journal Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines. The official web site for the journal, maintained by the publisher (Springer) is here. The GPEMjournal blog is authored and maintained by Lee Spector.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Origins of life research and evolutionary computing

A considerable amount of research in genetic and evolutionary computing is concerned to some degree with self-adaptation -- that is, with the adaptation and improvement of an evolutionary system over evolutionary time. (Try searching for "self-adaptive" in the GPEM journal search and GP-bibliography search boxes on the left.) This work connects not only to research in evolutionary biology but also to research on the origins of life, since it is concerned with the ways in which adaptive systems can themselves arise and become more adaptive.

In this context it is interesting to see today's announcement of an apparent breakthrough in origins of life research, on a possible scenario for the emergence of RNA on prebiotic Earth. This is work by Matthew W. Powner, Beatrice Gerland, and John D. Sutherland at the University of Manchester. There's a write-up in the New York Times, and the full report and a commentary by Jack W. Szostak are available in today's Nature (subscription required for full text).

Among the reasons this might interest GPEM readers is the fact that the discovery was made through an intensive search of the space of chemical reaction sequences. This may be a search space within which genetic and evolutionary computation can help to find new and interesting things, if the right kinds of computational chemistry simulation systems (of which there are many) can be used for fitness testing on with the right kinds of problems. Putting all of this together to make significant discoveries will be non-trivial, but it seems to me to have potential.

Incidentally, searching for "origins" or "chemistry" in the journal, using the top search box on the left, produces several items of related interest that were published previously in GPEM.

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