Abstract: Modularity is a system property of many natural and artificial adaptive systems. Evolutionary algorithms designed to produce modular solutions have increased convergence rates and improved generalization ability; however, their performance can be impacted if the task is inherently nonmodular. Previously, we have shown that some design variables can influence whether the task on the remaining variables is inherently modular. We investigate the possibility of exploiting that dependence to simplify optimization and arrive at a general design pattern that we use to show that evolutionary search can seek such modularity-inducing design variable values, thus easing subsequent search for highly fit, modular organization within the remaining design variables. We investigate this approach with embodied agents in which evolutionary discovery of morphology enables subsequent discovery of highly fit, modular controllers and show that it benefits from biasing search toward modular controllers and setting the mutation rate for control policies higher than that for morphology. This work also reinforces our previous finding that the relationship between modularity and evolvability that is well-studied in nonembodied systems can, under certain conditions, be generalized to include embodied systems as well and provides a practical approach to satisfying the conditions in question.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).