When Algorithms Inform Real Life: Novelty Search and the Myth of the Objective
Kenneth Stanley, University of Central Florida
Have you ever had an algorithmic insight that changed how you thought about the world? This talk will reflect on such a discovery, how it occurred, and why its implications extend well beyond the confines of AI and computer science. The story begins with a surprising observation about the most successful users of an online picture-breeding service called Picbreeder, which leads to a paradoxical new algorithm called novelty search that searches without any objective. However, the key insight behind this new algorithm, that the very act of forming an objective can block its own achievement, turns out more significant than just a step on the road to AI. After all, almost all our efforts as human beings are framed by objectives. Whether the aim is better algorithms, personal ambition, social change, or creative discovery, objectives loom behind almost every human endeavor.
The message of this talk: Maybe they shouldn’t.
Kenneth O. Stanley is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida. He received a B.S.E. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 and received a Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Texas at Austin. He is an inventor of the Neuroevolution of Augmenting Topologies (NEAT), HyperNEAT, and novelty search algorithms for evolving complex artificial neural networks. His main research contributions are in neuroevolution (i.e. evolving neural networks), generative and developmental systems (GDS), coevolution, machine learning for video games, and interactive evolution. He has won best paper awards for his work on NEAT, NERO, NEAT Drummer, FSMC, HyperNEAT, novelty search, and Galactic Arms Race. He is an associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games, on the editorial board of Evolutionary Computation journal, and on the ACM SIGEVO Executive Committee. He is also a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of aigameresearch.org.