VIRTUAL EVOLUTION – A MEMETIC CRITIQUE OF GENETIC ALGORITHMS IN DESIGN
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This paper discusses some issues in design theory arising from the use of genetic algorithms in architecture. The rationale for such programs derives from the iterative process of Darwinian natural selection, which has been likened to an algorithm, or ‘foolproof recipe’. However, while the products of these programs are often visually seductive, researchers rarely question the biological model underpinning them. Approaching the subject from a memetic perspective, the author argues that there are fundamental differences as well as similarities between memes, as cultural replicators, and genes, as biological replicators. Evolutionary design models based on the latter, especially those operating exclusively within laboratory or artificial environments, may therefore be misconceived. A number of problematic issues are identified, involving questions of definition, transmission, embodiment, selection and autonomy. As an alternative strategy, it is suggested that embedding design algorithms in real-life projects offers more promising results. The author concludes that, given the complexity of cultural evolution, the proper subjects for design research are memetic algorithms, rather than the genetic models.
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