The Flexible Balance of Evolutionary Novelty and Memory in the Face of Environmental Catastrophes

We study the effects of environmental catastrophes on the evolution of a population of sensory-motor agents with individually evolving mutation rates, and compare these effects in a variety of control systems. A catastrophe makes the balance shift toward the need for evolutionary novelty, and we observe the mutation rate evolve upwards. As the population adapts the sensory-motor strategies to the new environment and the balance shifts toward a need for evolutionary memory, the mutation rate falls. These observations support the hypothesis that second-order evolution of the mutation flexibly balances the need for evolutionary “novelty” and “memory,” both of which are controlled by the mutation rate.
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