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First published July 1 2016

How the Strictness of the Minimal Criterion Impacts Open-Ended Evolution

L. B. Soros, Nick Cheney, and Kenneth O. Stanley

Abstract (Excerpt)

Because the kind of open-ended complexity explosion seen on Earth remains beyond the observed dynamics of current artificial life worlds, it has become critical to isolate and investigate specific factors that may contribute to open-endedness. This paper focuses on one such factor that has previously received little attention in research on open-endedness: the minimal criterion (MC) for reproduction. Originally proposed as an enhancement to novelty search, the MC is in effect a different abstraction of evolution than the more conventional competition-focused fitness-based paradigm, instead focusing on the minimal task that must be completed for an organism to be allowed to produce offspring. The MC is interesting for studying open-endedness because in principle its strictness (i.e. how hard it is to satisfy) can be varied on a continuum to observe its effects. While in many artificial life worlds the MC strictness is implicit and therefore difficult to vary systematically, in the previously-introduced Chromaria world, the MC is designed to be set explicitly by the experimenter, making possible the systematic study of different levels of MC strictness in this paper. The main result, supported by visual, quantitative, and qualitative observations, is that the strictness of the MC can profoundly affect open- ended dynamics, ultimately deciding between complete stagnation (both with extreme strictness or complete relaxation) and orderly divergence. This result offers a lesson of particular importance to worlds whose MCs are not explicit by exposing an area of sensitivity within open-ended systems that is easy to overlook because of its implicit nature.