[ULS-SIG] Melanie Mitchell

Duncan McGreggor duncan.mcgreggor at gmail.com
Mon Dec 14 21:52:46 CET 2009

I've just discovered a brilliant mind in fields that are of great
interest to ULS researchers: Melanie Mitchell. She's conducted
research and has written extensively on the topics of genetic
programming, cellular automata, and computational perception. I'm
currently reading her paper entitled "Evolving globally synchronized
cellular automata" and it's quite fascinating. Here's a great quote
from the introduction:

"Given the widespread appearance of synchronization in decentralized
and spatially ex-
tended systems in nature, evidently evolution has successfully
overcome this problem. Evo-
lution has effectively taken advantage of the spatially local dynamics
in its production of
organisms which, on the one hand, consist of potentially independent
subsystems, but whose
behavior and survival, on the other hand, rely on emergent
synchronization. These observa-
tions leave us with an unanswered but biologically significant
question. By what mechanisms
does evolution take advantage of nature’s inherent dynamics?"

She concludes an overview of their work in section 4:

"...So we are faced with a problem familiar to biologists and
increasingly familiar to
evolutionary computationalists: how do we understand the successful
complex systems (e.g.,
φ) that our GA has constructed?"

She later describes the mechanism they employed to analyze their
results, and that bit was *very* fascinating! In previous work, one of
her frequent collaborators helped develop a theoretical abstraction, a
means of explaining complex systems. The mechanism they propose and
that has helped them analyze these results (as well as previous ones)
involves looking at the produced systems in terms of domains,
particles, and particle interactions. (J. P. Crutchfield and J. E.
Hanson. (1993). Turbulent pattern bases for cellular automata. Physica
D, 69:279–301.)

Here's her list of published papers:

The reason I'm looking into this (beyond the fact that such research
has been identified as crucial for ULS systems) is that the
"self-organizing object meshes" work (play) that I'm hoping to get
back to soon can be cast in terms of cellular automata. I fully
anticipate that these papers and the other writings of Dr. Mitchell
will provide endless inspiration for exploring implementation avenues

Anyway, I will continue to consume this and related research with much joy!

If anyone else gets around to reading her stuff, I'd love to hear what
you think about it...


P.S. For those of you that may remember the book "Gödel, Escher, and
Bach", Douglas Hofstadter was one of Dr. Mitchel's doctoral advisers
at the University of Michigan :-)

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