In an effort to create a model of evolutionary processes researchers at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland have turned to robots. The robots were placed in an “environment” with a “food” and a “poison” station. Robots were given two minutes to find the food resource while successfully avoiding the poison. Robots that failed this task were removed from the population while robots that succeeded had their programming merged with other successful robots to create new programming routines.
In under 500 generations the robots evolved a method of communication using lights. Lights often signaled that the food resource had been found, but in trials where the robots were set to compete with each other (where only the top performers of a subset of the population were allowed to mate their programming with another robot and continue into the next generation) some of the robots developed an ability to trick the others by using the light signals to tell the others that the poison was food instead. Even more surprising, the robots were less likely to practice deception when communicating with robots that had programming more similar to their own, effectively contributing to the survival of kin.
The Biological Research Information Center