The Biologic Institute has an excellent article discussing how biologists are copying the “brilliant designs” they see in nature for technological purposes. We’ve discussed this intriguing phenomenon of biomimetics many times before here on ENV. (For a couple examples, see here, here or here.)
The presumption of evolutionary biologists, of course, is that these “brilliant designs” evolved by natural selection preserving random, but beneficial mutations. Engineers operating under such presumptions have thus tried to mimic not only the “brilliant designs,” but also the evolutionary processes that allegedly produced the designs. Biologic’s article notes that one success story of such methods was the case of NASA engineers who used evolutionary computing to produce a better antenna.
Did they use truly Darwinian “evolutionary computing?” The article goes on to discuss how design parameters were smuggled into the simulation, such that it really wasn’t a truly unguided Darwinian evolutionary scenario.
So what exactly can unguided Darwinian evolutionary computing actually produce? Probably not very much, but this is a research question that Biologic is attempting to tackle. As their research page says, they are exploring “fundamental laws governing the origin of information” by “building and testing computational models that mimic the role of genetic information in specifying functions by means of structure-forming sequences.”
For more on Biologic’s published research into evolutionary computation, see Intelligent Design Lab is Going Where no Evolution Simulation has Gone Before.