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Artificial Life

Summer 2020, Vol. 26, No. 3, Pages 338-365
(doi: 10.1162/artl_a_00326)
© 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.
Symbiosis Promotes Fitness Improvements in the Game of Life
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We present a computational simulation of evolving entities that includes symbiosis with shifting levels of selection. Evolution by natural selection shifts from the level of the original entities to the level of the new symbiotic entity. In the simulation, the fitness of an entity is measured by a series of one-on-one competitions in the Immigration Game, a two-player variation of Conway's Game of Life. Mutation, reproduction, and symbiosis are implemented as operations that are external to the Immigration Game. Because these operations are external to the game, we can freely manipulate the operations and observe the effects of the manipulations. The simulation is composed of four layers, each layer building on the previous layer. The first layer implements a simple form of asexual reproduction, the second layer introduces a more sophisticated form of asexual reproduction, the third layer adds sexual reproduction, and the fourth layer adds symbiosis. The experiments show that a small amount of symbiosis, added to the other layers, significantly increases the fitness of the population. We suggest that the model may provide new insights into symbiosis in biological and cultural evolution.