Many biological systems execute tasks by dividing them into finer sub-tasks first. This is seen for example in the advanced division of labor of social insects like ants, bees or termites. One of the unsolved mysteries in biology is how a blind process of Darwinian selection could have led to such highly complex forms of sociality. To answer this question, we used simulated teams of robots and artificially evolved them to achieve maximum performance in a foraging task. We find that, as in social insects, this favored controllers that caused the robots to display a self-organized division of labor in which the different robots automatically specialized into carrying out different subtasks in the group. Remarkably, such a division of labor could be achieved even if the robots were not told beforehand how the global task of retrieving items back to their base could best be divided into smaller subtasks. This is the first time that a self-organized division of labor mechanism could be evolved entirely de-novo. In addition, these findings shed significant new light on the question of how natural systems managed to evolve complex sociality and division of labor.
Ferrante E, Turgut AE, Duéñez-Guzmán E, Dorigo M, Wenseleers T (2015) Evolution of Self-Organized Task Specialization in Robot Swarms. PLoS Comput Biol 11(8): e1004273. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004273 ;
Via Complexity Digest