The Chip That Designs Itself

Posted on December 8, 2008  Comments (0)

The chip that designs itself by Clive Davidson , 1998

Adrian Thompson, who works at the university’s Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, came up with the idea of self-designing circuits while thinking about building neural network chips. A graduate in microelectronics, he joined the centre four years ago to pursue a PhD in neural networks and robotics.

To get the experiment started, he created an initial population of 50 random circuit designs coded as binary strings. The genetic algorithm, running on a standard PC, downloaded each design to the Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) and tested it with the two tones generated by the PC’s sound card. At first there was almost no evidence of any ability to discriminate between the two tones, so the genetic algorithm simply selected circuits which did not appear to behave entirely randomly. The fittest circuit in the first generation was one that output a steady five-volt signal no matter which tone it heard.

By generation 220 there was some sign of improvement. The fittest circuit could produce an output that mimicked the input – wave forms that corresponded to the 1KHz or 10KHz tones – but not a steady zero or five-volt output.

By generation 650, some evolved circuits gave a steady output to one tone but not the other. It took almost another 1,000 generations to find circuits that could give approximately the right output and another 1,000 to get accurate results. However, there were still some glitches in the results and it took until generation 4,100 for these to disappear. The genetic algorithm was allowed to run for a further 1,000 generations but there were no further changes.

See Adrian Thompson’s home page (Department of Informatics, University of Sussex) for more on evolutionary electronics. Such as Scrubbing away transients and Jiggling around the permanent: Long survival of FPGA systems through evolutionary self-repair:

Mission operation is never interrupted. The repair circuitry is sufficiently small that a pair could mutually repair each other. A minimal evolutionary algorithm is used during permanent fault self-repair. Reliability analysis of the studied case shows the system has a 0.99 probability of surviving 17 times the mean time to local permanent fault arrival. Such a system would be 0.99 probable to survive 100 years with one fault every 6 years.

Very cool.

Related: Evolutionary DesignInvention MachineEvo-Devo

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