Invention Machine Evolved By Genetic Programming

John Koza has created an "invention machine" - a 1,000 processor parallel-processing marvel that has succeeded in creating patentable inventions. The Patent Office requires a "non-obvious step" - until now the sole province of human designers.


(Koza and his creation)

Koza's invention machine uses genetic programming to come up with something new - ideas that were never thought of by the original code designers. Koza's genetic programming uses a Darwinian method with a twist; after an inital run at a problem, the software looks for the bits of code that were most successful in meeting the objectives of an assigned problem. The software thus does more than simply tweak parameters on a finished design; it can actually evolve a new design to best solve a problem, requiring in some cases hundreds of generations.

For example, in working with a project on circuit design, the computer output designs for a pair of controller circuits that control feedback that were so original, Koza and his colleagues filed for, and received, patents. This method has been shown to work on optics design as well.

And in a definitely science-fictional touch, the same genetic programming technique was used to create a unique antenna for a NASA microsat experiment. This will be the first "artificially evolved" object to be launched into space, according to NASA.


(Microsat ST5 space antenna)

The invention machine is not without precedent in the science fiction field. In his 1968 novel Crown of Infinity, John M. Faucette wrote about a device with unlimited creative potential:

It was a period of total stress that gave them the answer: a Total Environmental and Mental Simulator. A computer that could simulate or duplicate the mental processes of any actual or artificial being, and through simulated total environmental stimuli create a situation of maximum stress upon that entity...

Carruthers had to blank out his mind. He fought his ship and he unleased the TEMS. Working overtime, that dreaded instrument began thinking and building weapons that the Star Kings had always feared...

...Untouched for generations because of the undreamed of methods of destruction that it could conceive, it was at last put to work. "Destroy those vessels," commanded Carruthers and instantly the TEMS was creating and destroying entire systems of logic and mathematics, creating and discarding scores of new sciences. Before the sensory apparatus of the Shem the Star King ships grew in firepower and defensive capabilities.
(Read more about the TEMS)

If reading this article on genetic programming doesn't send you screaming to the Singularity Summit, nothing will. From the Amazon Mechanical Turk to the crime-fighting computer to the rat neurons playing Flight Simulator, artificial intelligence is on the march.

Read more about John Koza and his invention machine and the NASA space antenna. Thanks to Winchell Chung for contributing the story tip and the quote.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/19/2006)

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