Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Genetic algorithms, Computational complexity, Cellular automata -- Evolution


How does an evolutionary process interact with a decentralized, distributed system in order to produce globally coordinated behavior? Using a genetic algorithm (GA) to evolve cellular automata (CAs), we show that the evolution of spontaneous synchronization, one type of emergent coordination, takes advantage of the underlying medium's potential to form embedded particles. The particles, typically phase defects between synchronous regions, are designed by the evolutionary process to resolve frustrations in the global phase. We describe in detail one typical solution discovered by the GA, delineating the discovered synchronization algorithm in terms of embedded particles and their interactions. We also use the particle-level description to analyze the evolutionary sequence by which this solution was discovered. Our results have implications both for understanding emergent collective behavior in natural systems and for the automatic programming of decentralized spatially extended multiprocessor systems.


Santa Fe Institute Working Paper 1995-01-005. Subsequently published in Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Genetic Algorithms, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc. San Francisco, CA, USA ©1995.

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