This is something that’s been contested even recently, the subject of some rather…lively…debate; the idea that altruism is an adaptive trait that can evolve to genetically perpetuate itself by the self-sacrifice of individuals for others on a kinship group level, a seemingly counterintuitive notion when considering the more competitive aspects of evolution, but then most scientific findings since the early 20th century have been as we explore regimes of nature contrary to everyday experience, where our intuition applies.
There are a lot of species whose members will assist others of their kind at their own expense, ants are one, and primate species especially, but this is the first time I’ve seen where this idea has actually been tested empirically.
This study involved 500 generations of mini-robots, each of which has a 33-bit computer serving as a genetic code, the arrangement of bits which mutates over time in each new generation, with defective configurations being eliminated and successful ones kept and passed on along the chain of descent.
Over time, the ‘bots brains developed a tendency not only in the drive to look for ‘food’ but those which looked out for and assisted each other tended to consistently succeed.
Evolution; Only red in tooth and claw? Not necessarily, as this shows.
This is very similar to Isaac Asimov’s fictional First Law of Robotics, and will prove very useful for the ongoing trend in the U.S. armed forces toward increased drone warfare deployment, developing better-coordinated, more accurate automated combat units.