CA-NEAT: Evolved Compositional Pattern Producing Networks for Cellular Automata Morphogenesis and Replication

Stefano Nichele, Mathias Berild Ose, Sebastian Risi, Gunnar Tufte

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Cellular Automata (CA) are a remarkable example of morphogenetic system, where cells grow and self-organise through local interactions. CA have been used as abstractions of biological development and artificial life. Such systems have been able to show properties that are often desirable but difficult to achieve in engineered systems, e.g. morphogenesis and replication of regular patterns without any form of centralized coordination. However, cellular systems are hard to program (i.e. evolve) and control, especially when the number of cell states and neighbourhood increase. In this paper, we propose a new principle of morphogenesis based on Compositional Pattern Producing Networks (CPPNs), an abstraction of development that has been able to produce complex structural motifs without local interactions. CPPNs are used as Cellular Automata genotypes and evolved with a NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies (NEAT) algorithm. This allows complexification of genomes throughout evolution with phenotypes emerging from self-organisation through development based on local interactions. In this paper, the problems of 2D pattern morphogenesis and replication are investigated. Results show that CA-NEAT is an appropriate means of approaching cellular systems engineering, especially for future applications where natural levels of complexity are targeted. We argue that CA-NEAT could provide a valuable mapping for morphogenetic systems, beyond cellular automata systems, where development through local interactions is desired.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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