Revisiting the Edge of Chaos: Evolving Cellular Automata to Perform Computations
Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Revisiting the Edge of Chaos: Evolving Cellular Automata to Perform Computations


We present results from an experiment similar to one performed by Packard (1988), in which a genetic algorithm is used to evolve cellular automata (CA) to perform a particular computational task. Packard examined the frequency of evolved CA rules as a function of Langton's lambda parameter (Langton, 1990), and interpreted the results of his experiment as giving evidence for the following two hypotheses: (1) CA rules able to perform complex computations are most likely to be found near ``critical'' lambda values, which have been claimed to correlate with a phase transition between ordered and chaotic behavioral regimes for CA; (2) When CA rules are evolved to perform a complex computation, evolution will tend to select rules with lambda values close to the critical values. Our experiment produced very different results, and we suggest that the interpretation of the original results is not correct. We also review and discuss issues related to lambda, dynamical-behavior classes, and computation in CA. The main constructive results of our study are identifying the emergence and competition of computational strategies and analyzing the central role of symmetries in an evolutionary system. In particular, we demonstrate how symmetry breaking can impede the evolution toward higher computational capability.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View