Richard A. Watson

Richard A. Watson is a Senior Lecturer in the BIO@ECS Research Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton.

  • Compositional Evolution

    Compositional Evolution

    The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution

    Richard A. Watson

    A study of evolutionary processes that involve the combination of systems of semi-independently preadapted genetic material rather than the linear or sequential accumulation of slight modifications; with computational models that illustrate these mechanisms.

    No biological concept has had greater impact on the way we view ourselves and the world around us than the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin's masterful contribution was to provide an algorithmic model (a formal step-by-step procedure) of how adaptation may take place in biological systems. However, the simple process of linear incremental improvement that he described is only one algorithmic possibility, and certain biological phenomena provide the possibility of implementing alternative processes. In Compositional Evolution, Richard Watson uses the tools of computer science and computational biology to show that certain mechanisms of genetic variation (such as sex, gene transfer, and symbiosis) allowing the combination of preadapted genetic material enable an evolutionary process, compositional evolution, that is algorithmically distinct from the Darwinian gradualist framework. After reviewing the gradualist framework of evolution and outlining the analogous principles at work in evolutionary computation, Watson describes the compositional mechanisms of evolutionary biology and provides computational models that illustrate his argument. He uses models such as the genetic algorithm as well as novel models to explore different evolutionary scenarios, comparing evolution based on spontaneous point mutation, sexual recombination, and symbiotic encapsulation. He shows that the models of sex and symbiosis are algorithmically distinct from simpler stochastic optimization methods based on gradual processes. Finally, Watson discusses the impact of compositional evolution on our understanding of natural evolution and, similarly, the utility of evolutionary computation methods for problem solving and design.

    • Hardcover $11.75 £9.99
  • Artificial Life IX

    Artificial Life IX

    Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems

    Jordan Pollack, Mark A. Bedau, Phil Husbands, Richard A. Watson, and Takashi Ikegami

    Proceedings from the ninth International Conference on Artificial Life; papers by scientists of many disciplines focusing on the principles of organization and applications of complex, life-like systems.

    Artificial Life is an interdisciplinary effort to investigate the fundamental properties of living systems through the simulation and synthesis of life-like processes. The young field brings a powerful set of tools to the study of how high-level behavior can arise in systems governed by simple rules of interaction. Some of the fundamental questions include: What are the principles of evolution, learning, and growth that can be understood well enough to simulate as an information process? Can robots be built faster and more cheaply by mimicking biology than by the product design process used for automobiles and airplanes? How can we unify theories from dynamical systems, game theory, evolution, computing, geophysics, and cognition?

    The field has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of life itself through computer models, and has led to novel solutions to complex real-world problems across high technology and human society. This elite biennial meeting has grown from a small workshop in Santa Fe to a major international conference. This ninth volume of the proceedings of the international A-life conference reflects the growing quality and impact of this interdisciplinary scientific community.

    • Paperback $80.00 £62.00

Contributor

  • Evolutionary Causation

    Biological and Philosophical Reflections

    Tobias Uller and Kevin N. Laland

    A comprehensive treatment of the concept of causation in evolutionary biology that makes clear its central role in both historical and contemporary debates.

    Most scientific explanations are causal. This is certainly the case in evolutionary biology, which seeks to explain the diversity of life and the adaptive fit between organisms and their surroundings. The nature of causation in evolutionary biology, however, is contentious. How causation is understood shapes the structure of evolutionary theory, and historical and contemporary debates in evolutionary biology have revolved around the nature of causation. Despite its centrality, and differing views on the subject, the major conceptual issues regarding the nature of causation in evolutionary biology are rarely addressed. This volume fills the gap, bringing together biologists and philosophers to offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatment of evolutionary causation.

    Contributors first address biological motivations for rethinking evolutionary causation, considering the ways in which development, extra-genetic inheritance, and niche construction challenge notions of cause and process in evolution, and describing how alternative representations of evolutionary causation can shed light on a range of evolutionary problems. Contributors then analyze evolutionary causation from a philosophical perspective, considering such topics as causal entanglement, the commingling of organism and environment, and the relationship between causation and information.

    Contributors John A. Baker, Lynn Chiu, David I. Dayan, Renée A. Duckworth, Marcus W Feldman, Susan A. Foster, Melissa A. Graham, Heikki Helanterä, Kevin N. Laland, Armin P. Moczek, John Odling-Smee, Jun Otsuka, Massimo Pigliucci, Arnaud Pocheville, Arlin Stoltzfus, Karola Stotz, Sonia E. Sultan, Christoph Thies, Tobias Uller, Denis M. Walsh, Richard A. Watson

    • Hardcover $60.00 £45.00