emergent/swarm/evolutionary systems etc

Josiah Carlson jcarlson at uci.edu
Tue Mar 30 20:01:35 CEST 2004

> From this, and other reading on genetic algorithms, I've found that nearly
> all of the applications being developed and used are far 'stronger' than
> what I have in mind. Most critically, the great preponderance of uses
> involve a program that simply modulates a set of given variables in search
> for an answer, rather than modifying the source code itself. Understandably,
> this is because, as stated above, such 'weak' methods are of limited use for
> most problems (I wouldn't want to fly in a plane that had been designed by
> one).

> Since, at the moment, I'm more interested in a 'pet cyber slime' than a tool
> for designing efficient circuit layouts, such 'strong' applications are of
> limited use. Even the 'state space' and 'random search' examples above are
> considerably 'stronger' than I would desire to use.
> For me, the goal is not only to create a program that can find an optimal
> solution to a problem, but which can also find better ways of learning -
> something disallowed by a fixed-algorithm engine.

Take this with a grain of salt, but generally, expecting computers to 
learn is a high expectation.  From neural networks (aka connectionist 
networks), genetic algorithms, naive bayesian statistics, etc., the 
desire in all of these cases is for a system that responds to a certain 
environment, produces some reasonable solutions in this environment, and 
works reasonably well in other environments.

The one limitation of all these approaches is that the algorithms and 
methods for doing this have limited knowledge (usually a few hundred 
bytes of state), no higher-order insight, etc.  The algorithms, when 
given proper input and design, can solve certain problems.  You may get 
lucky and your algorithm/data is applicable to another problem, but 
those situations are the rare exception, rather than the rule.

These 'learning' methods do the best when applied to what you have shown 
is called 'strong' problems.  The 'weak' problems I've seen worked on, 
generally had weak (read poor) results.  The stronger your problem, the 
better results you will likely have.

> There's a lot of other interesting stuff on this site, but it'll take a
> while to examine it all, and it'll be quite a while more before I have the
> time to start on Stephen Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science". One question
> though - can I, indeed, create, modify, run and save files using just a
> python script?

Don't think of Python as a scripting language.  It can be used that way, 
but Python has better built-in data structures and language features 
than the most used languages out there (C, C++ and Java).

Can you create a file?  Certainly, open a file for writing that didn't 
previously exist...
   file_for_writing = open('filename', 'wb')

Can you modify a file?  Certainly, open a file for reading and updating 
that exists...
   file_for_updating_in_place = open('filename', 'r+b')

Want to run a file?  (be careful though, executing the contents of a 
file can be dangerous)...
   fil = open('filename', 'rb')
   contents = fil.read()

Want to save a file?
   fil = open('filename', 'wb')
   fil.write("some string of what you want to write")

  - Josiah

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