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It seems that evolution had not merely selected the best code for the task, it had also advocated those programs which took advantage of the electromagnetic quirks of that specific microchip environment.
As predicted, the principle of natural selection could successfully produce specialized circuits using a fraction of the resources a human would have required. The plucky chip was utilizing only thirty-seven of its one hundred logic gates, and most of them were arranged in a curious collection of feedback loops.Even the top performers were so profoundly inadequate that the computer had to choose its favorites based on tiny nuances.The genetic algorithm eliminated the worst of the bunch, and the best were allowed to mingle their virtual DNA by swapping fragments of source code with their partners.All one must do is load the appropriate configuration.The informatics researcher began his experiment by selecting a straightforward task for the chip to complete: he decided that it must reliably differentiate between two particular audio tones.Finally, after just over 4,000 generations, test system settled upon the best program. Thompson played the 1k Hz tone, the microchip unfailingly reacted by decreasing its power output to zero volts.
When he played the 10k Hz tone, the output jumped up to five volts.
He also strayed from convention by omitting the system clock, thereby stripping the chip of its ability to synchronize its digital resources in the traditional way.
He cooked up a batch of primordial data-soup by generating fifty random blobs of ones and zeros.
As a test bed, he procured a special type of chip called a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) whose internal logic can be completely rewritten as opposed to the fixed design of normal chips.
This flexibility results in a circuit whose operation is hot and slow compared to conventional counterparts, but it allows a single chip to become a modem, a voice-recognition unit, an audio processor, or just about any other computer component.
Engineers are experimenting with rudimentary adaptive hardware systems which marry evolvable chips to conventional equipment.