Nav: Home

Research showing why hierarchy exists will aid the development of artificial intelligence

June 09, 2016

New research explains why so many biological networks, including the human brain (a network of neurons), exhibit a hierarchical structure, and will improve attempts to create artificial intelligence. The study, published in PLOS Computational Biology, demonstrates this by showing that the evolution of hierarchy - a simple system of ranking - in biological networks may arise because of the costs associated with network connections.

Like large businesses, many biological networks are hierarchically organised, such as gene, protein, neural, and metabolic networks. This means they have separate units that can each be repeatedly divided into smaller and smaller subunits. For example, the human brain has separate areas for motor control and tactile processing, and each of these areas consist of sub-regions that govern different parts of the body.

But why do so many biological networks evolve to be hierarchical? The results of this paper suggest that hierarchy evolves not because it produces more efficient networks, but instead because hierarchically wired networks have fewer connections. This is because connections in biological networks are expensive - they have to be built, housed, maintained, etc. - and there is therefore an evolutionary pressure to reduce the number of connections.

In addition to shedding light on the emergence of hierarchy across the many domains in which it appears, these findings may also accelerate future research into evolving more complex, intelligent computational brains in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics.

Researchers from the University of Wyoming and INRIA (France) led by Henok S. Mengistu simulated the evolution of computational brain models, known as artificial neural networks, both with and without a cost for network connections. They found that hierarchical structures emerge much more frequently when a cost for connections is present.

Author Jeff Clune says, "For over a decade we have been on a quest to understand why networks evolve to have the properties of modularity, hierarchy, and regularity. With these results, we have now uncovered evolutionary drivers for each of these key properties." Mengistu notes: "The findings not only explain why biological networks are hierarchical, they might also give an explanation for why many man-made systems such as the Internet and road systems are also hierarchical."

Author Joost Huizinga adds "The next step is to harness and combine this knowledge to evolve large-scale, structurally organized networks in the hopes of creating better artificial intelligence and increasing our understanding of the evolution of animal intelligence, including our own."
-end-


PLOS

Related Evolution Articles:

An evolution in the understanding of evolution
In an open-source research paper, a UVA Engineering professor and her former Ph.D. student share a new, more accurate method for modeling evolutionary change.
Chemical evolution -- One-pot wonder
Before life, there was RNA: Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich show how the four different letters of this genetic alphabet could be created from simple precursor molecules on early Earth -- under the same environmental conditions.
Catching evolution in the act
Researchers have produced some of the first evidence that shows that artificial selection and natural selection act on the same genes, a hypothesis predicted by Charles Darwin in 1859.
Guppies teach us why evolution happens
New study on guppies shows that animals evolve in response the the environment they create in the absence of predators, rather than in response to the risk of being eaten.
Undercover evolution
Our individuality is encrypted in our DNA, but it is deeper than expected.
Evolution designed by parasites
In 'Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation,' published in the September 2019 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, Marco Del Giudice explores an overlooked aspect of the relationship between parasites and their hosts by systematically discussing the ways in which parasitic behavior manipulation may encourage the evolution of mechanisms in the host's nervous and endocrine systems.
Tracing the evolution of vision
The function of the visual photopigment rhodopsin and its action in the retina to facilitate vision is well understood.
Directed evolution comes to plants
Accelerating plant evolution with CRISPR paves the way for breeders to engineer new crop varieties.
Pain free, thanks to evolution
African mole-rats are insensitive to many different kinds of pain.
Evolution in the gut
Evolution and dietary habits interact and determine the composition of bacteria in the digestive tract.
More Evolution News and Evolution Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.