Virtual Life Forms Mutate, Shedding Light on Evolution

They don’t sting or bite. They don’t cause diarrhea or headaches. They don’t even exist in a tangible form. But “digital organisms”– special programs that reproduce, mutate, and adapt –can thrive inside computers, and they are teaching scientists several lifetimes worth of information about evolution.

These artificial “bugs” show that complex functions that are the digital equivalent to something like human eyesight can evolve from the simplest of functions via a long and winding road of gradual mutation, according to a team consisting of a biologist, a computer scientist, a philosopher, and a physicist.