Biological evolution provides a creative fount of complex and subtle adaptations, often surprising the scientists who discover them. However, because evolution is an algorithmic process that transcends the substrate in which it occurs, evolution’s creativity is not limited to nature. Indeed, many researchers in the field of digital evolution have observed their evolving algorithms and organisms subverting their intentions, exposing unrecognized bugs in their code, producing unexpected adaptations, or exhibiting outcomes uncannily convergent with ones in nature. Such stories routinely reveal creativity by evolution in these digital worlds, but they rarely fit into the standard scientific narrative. Instead they are often treated as mere obstacles to be overcome, rather than results that warrant study in their own right. The stories themselves are traded among researchers through oral tradition, but that mode of information transmission is inefficient and prone to error and outright loss. Moreover, the fact that these stories tend to be shared only among practitioners means that many natural scientists do not realize how interesting and lifelike digital organisms are and how natural their evolution can be. To our knowledge, no collection of such anecdotes has been published before. This paper is the crowd-sourced product of researchers in the fields of artificial life and evolutionary computation who have provided first-hand accounts of such cases. It thus serves as a written, fact-checked collection of scientifically important and even entertaining stories. In doing so we also present here substantial evidence that the existence and importance of evolutionary surprises extends beyond the natural world, and may indeed be a universal property of all complex evolving systems.
Joel Lehman, Jeff Clune, Dusan Misevic, Christoph Adami, Lee Altenberg, Julie Beaulieu, Peter J. Bentley, Samuel Bernard, Guillaume Beslon, David M. Bryson, Patryk Chrabaszcz, Nick Cheney, Antoine Cully, Stephane Doncieux, Fred C. Dyer, Kai Olav Ellefsen, Robert Feldt, Stephan Fischer, Stephanie Forrest, Antoine Frénoy, Christian Gagné, Leni Le Goff, Laura M. Grabowski, Babak Hodjat, Frank Hutter, Laurent Keller, Carole Knibbe, Peter Krcah, Richard E. Lenski, Hod Lipson, Robert MacCurdy, Carlos Maestre, Risto Miikkulainen, Sara Mitri, David E. Moriarty, Jean-Baptiste Mouret, Anh Nguyen, Charles Ofria, Marc Parizeau, David Parsons, Robert T. Pennock, William F. Punch, Thomas S. Ray, Marc Schoenauer, Eric Shulte, Karl Sims, Kenneth O. Stanley, François Taddei, Danesh Tarapore, Simon Thibault, Westley Weimer, Richard Watson, Jason Yosinski