Faculty Publications and Other Works -- Mathematics

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Frontiers in Neurorobotics

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As part of the extended evolutionary synthesis, there has recently been a new emphasis on the effects of biological development on genetic inheritance and variation. The exciting new directions taken by those in the community have by a pre-history filled with related ideas that were never given a rigorous foundation or combined coherently. Part of the historical background of the extended synthesis is the work of James Mark Baldwin on his so-called “Baldwin Effect.” Many variant re-interpretations of his work obscure the original meaning of the Baldwin Effect. This paper emphasizes a new approach to the Baldwin Effect, focusing on his work in developmental psychology and how that would impact evolution. We propose a novel population genetics model of the Baldwin Effect. First, the impact of a kind of learning process motivated by motor babbling, in the developmental psychology literature, on evolution; second, that Information-theoretic phenotype reshaping speeds up evolution compared to populations without this kind of learning. The basic idea behind the model is to allow the organism to apply abstraction to his initial phenotype to situate it within one of a few different classes of phenotypes in the local neighborhood of a fitness maximum. The reshaping of the phenotype space thereby allows the organism to reach a nearby fitness maximum. By so doing, valleys in the fitness landscape are leveled out, making a rugged fitness landscape into a set of mesas and plateaus with increasing height. Using this model we can show the first sizeable speed-up for the Baldwin Effect compared to ordinary population genetics. We also introduce an information-theoretic foundation for the Baldwin Effect, which may be of independent interest.


This article was published openly thanks to the University of Tennessee Open Publishing Support Fund.

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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