Friday, January 29, 2016

Can the Evolutionary Process Learn?

Posted by Tobias Uller

Next week I thought we would discuss an opinion piece in TREE by Richard Watson and Eörs Szathmary. The thought-provoking suggestion - based on insightful use of learning theory - is that the basic ingredients of evolution (organismal variation, differential reproductive success, and inheritance) evolve in ways that make evolution a more directed process than we might think. Richard and Eörs explain the basics and apply the logic to evolvability, ecosystems and major transitions.

Paper can be found here, abstract below.

Time: Tuesday, Feb 2, at 10.00

Where: "Argumentet", 2nd floor, Ecology Building
Coffee guaranteed and there is a decent chance of kanelbulle
The theory of evolution links random variation and selection to incremental adaptation. In a different intellectual domain, learning theory links incremental adaptation (e.g., from positive and/or negative reinforcement) to intelligent behaviour. Specifically, learning theory explains how incremental adaptation can acquire knowledge from past experience and use it to direct future behaviours toward favourable outcomes. Until recently such cognitive learning seemed irrelevant to the ‘uninformed’ process of evolution. In our opinion, however, new results formally linking evolutionary processes to the principles of learning might provide solutions to several evolutionary puzzles – the evolution of evolvability, the evolution of ecological organisation, and evolutionary transitions in individuality. If so, the ability for evolution to learn might explain how it produces such apparently intelligent designs.

1 comment:

  1. I endorse this post.. So informative. Here also is a detailed summary of genetics and behaviour