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Posted By Peter Bentley
Last year two friends were invited to give TEDx talks. One was Tony Ruto, who worked as an RA and PhD student in the same office as me several years ago at UCL, and who is now employed by my old PhD student Siavash Mahdavi in his company. Tony asked for a few tips on what to say and what kinds of slides to show, so I gave him a little bit of advice, which he seemed to appreciate, saying: Thank once again for your guidance on creating and delivering a well received talk. Tony's talk is now available online here:

The other was Gusz Eiben, who works on evolutionary computation - my home field of research (although I investigate a few other bio-inspired methods these days). Gusz asked for details of my tables that I evolved using a genetic algorithm - he mentions me and one of my tables at about 10:30 in the video, which is available here:

The nice side effect of helping out is that there is now some discussion of me doing a TEDx talk later this year. Watch this space!

Posted By Peter Bentley
I was asked two or three months ago to write an article about Darwin, evolution and computers for the schools science magazine Catalyst. Took a while to come out, but I've just been sent a copy. The style is deliberately aimed at our cynical teenage audience, hopefully some of them will find the ideas of interest; you can read it by clicking here.

Posted By Peter Bentley
I recently came across the video of the talk I gave for Ars Eectronica in 2003. Not much to see - just me on stage with a microphone and a few slides, but the (slightly fuzzy) audio is now online. My audience was a bunch of computational artists who as usual I managed to insult (always a good trick to make 'em listen). One tried to be a bit rude at the end with her question, but you'll note the admirable patience I showed :) I talk about code, and how programming computers and biological systems relate to each other. Those who know where my research went in the following 5 years will find many of the concepts I describe familiar. You can listen to the 40 minute talk, including questions, here: y/arstalk.mp3

Posted By Peter Bentley
On July 9, 2007 I played "Dimbleby" to a debate in the Great Hall of the Natural History Museum. We'd invited Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones and Lewis Wolpert. (Richard did the foreword for my first book, Steve suggested I use his literary agent when I was writing Digital Biology- which I did, and Lewis collaborated with one of my PhD students). It was great fun, with our voices echoing out and reaching the ears of 600 people in the audience. The topic was evolution of compexity, and we covered a good range of topics. The occasion formed the keynote event for the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference that I helped run at UCL at the same time. You can still download the audio or video of the whole event from here: aff/p. bentley/evodebate.html

Posted By Peter Bentley
Here's the second half of the same interview.

- Regarding robots; are genetic algorithms the best approach to make it move? That is, do they yield the best performance, and aren't they limited by lack of processing power or a long time needed to evolve a movement behaviour?

GAs are a great idea if you want to incorporate ideas of embodiment. In other words, if you want your robot to be able to affect its environment in as many ways as possible, and if you want the environment to affect the robot (resulting in improved body and brain) as much as possible. This is how natural organisms are - they shape their world, and their world shapes them. Evolution enables us to test robots in the real world and has a wonderful ability to exploit everything possible to improve those robots. The downside is of course that we can't really evolve robots. We don't have robots that can have children (or that can build themselves), so if we want to use GAs right now, we have to use a combination of computer simulation and physical testing, which can be slow.

- As a sort of subquestion to the one above, do you think evolutionary algorithms are the way to go to make robots robust for hardware failure?

I think evolution is half of the solution. The other half is development (or embroygenesis). If we evolve a growth process, which generates our desired hardware, then that hardware "knows" what it wants to be. So if it gets damaged, the growth process automatically replaces the damaged elements. This is an important trick that we've only just begun to explore, but we're all very excited about the possibilities.