Complex Systems

How Learning Can Guide Evolution Download PDF

Geoffrey E. Hinton
Steven J. Nowlan
Computer Science Department, Carnegie-Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA


The assumption that acquired characteristics are not inherited is often taken to imply that the adaptations that an organism learns during its lifetime cannot guide the course of evolution. This inference is incorrect [2]. Learning alters the shape of the search space in which evolution operates and thereby provides good evolutionary paths towards sets of co-adapted alleles. We demonstrate that this affect allows learning organisms to evolve much faster than their non-learning equivalents, even though the characteristics acquired by the phenotype are not communicated to the genotype.