A major challenge for evolutionary computation is to evolve phenotypes such as neural networks, sensory systems, or motor controllers at the same level of complexity as found in biological organisms. In order to meet this challenge, many researchers are proposing indirect encodings, that is, evolutionary mechanisms where the same genes are used multiple times in the process of building a phenotype. Such gene reuse allows compact representations of very complex phenotypes. Development is a natural choice for implementing indirect encodings, if only because nature itself uses this very process. Motivated by the development of embryos in nature, we define artificial embryogeny (AE) as the subdiscipline of evolutionary computation (EC) in which phenotypes undergo a developmental phase. An increasing number of AE systems are currently being developed, and a need has arisen for a principled approach to comparing and contrasting, and ultimately building, such systems. Thus, in this paper, we develop a principled taxonomy for AE. This taxonomy provides a unified context for long-term research in AE, so that implementation decisions can be compared and contrasted along known dimensions in the design space of embryogenic systems. It also allows predicting how the settings of various AE parameters affect the capacity to efficiently evolve complex phenotypes.

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