Faster and cheaper than ever, supercomputers used to simulate the evolutionary process (many millions of generations/iterations) in technological design are now innovating within the span of days:
Among [the devices] revealed at the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference held in London this summer were long-life USB memory sticks, superfast racing-yacht keels, ultra-high-bandwidth optical fibres, high performance Wi-Fi antennae (evolved to avoid patent fees), cochlear implants that can optimise themselves to individual patients and a cancer-biopsy analyser that was evolved to match a human pathologist’s tumour-spotting skills.
…Perhaps the most cunning use of an evolutionary algorithm, though, is by Dr [John] Koza [of Stanford University, who is one of the pioneers of the field]. His team at Stanford developed a Wi-Fi antenna for a client who did not want to pay a patent-licence fee to Cisco Systems. The team fed the algorithm as much data as they could from the Cisco patent and told the software to design around it. It succeeded in doing so. The result is a design that does not infringe Cisco’s patent—and is more efficient to boot. A century and a half after Darwin suggested natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, engineers have proved him right once again. [The Economist]