Abstract: Biological evolution provides a creative fount of complex and subtle adaptations, often surprising the scientists who discover them. However, because evolution is an algorithmic process that transcends the substrate in which it occurs, evolution's creativity is not limited to nature. Indeed, many researchers in the field of digital evolution have observed their evolving algorithms and organisms subverting their intentions, exposing unrecognized bugs in their code, producing unexpected adaptations, or exhibiting outcomes uncannily convergent with ones in nature. Such stories routinely reveal creativity by evolution in these digital worlds, but they rarely fit into the standard scientific narrative. […]
The NeuroEvolving Robotic Operatives (NERO) video game set a milestone in the game industry at the time of its release as the first game in which non-player characters actually evolve in real time while the game is played . While the polished version of the game that was released by Stanley and a large team of programmers in 2005 portrays a world where order prevails, evolution’s tendency to seek out and exploit loopholes led to some humorous behaviors during development that were anything but realistic. For example, players of NERO are encouraged to place walls around their evolving robots to help them learn to navigate around obstacles.
However, somehow evolution figured out how to do something that should have been impossible: the robotic operatives consistently evolved a special kind of “wiggle” that literally causes them to walk up the walls, allowing them to ignore obstacles entirely, and undermining the intent of the game. The NERO team had to plug this loophole, which is apparently a little-known bug in the Torque gaming engine, after which the robots acquiesced to the more respectful policy of politely walking around walls to get to the other side.