Blind Watchmaker Applet

Introduction

The Blind Watchmaker algorithm was conceived by Richard Dawkins and is described in his book The Blind Watchmaker. The Blind Watchmaker applet is easy to use and demonstrates very effectively how random mutation followed by non-random selection can lead to interesting, complex forms. These forms are called "biomorphs" (a word invented by Desmond Morris) and are visual representations of a set of 'genes'.

Each biomorph in the Blind Watchmaker applet has the following 15 genes:

The Biomorph Reserve contains some examples evolved with the applet:

Biomorph Reserve

Instructions

Click on the button below and the applet window will open (the window can be expanded). Inside you will see 12 squares, each containing a biomorph. The top-left biomorph is the parent and the other eleven are its children (differing by one randomly selected gene). At first the biomorphs are very small, but after a number of generations they really start to develop - be patient!

Select one of the children to become the parent for the next generation. Choose carefully, the point is that the selection is not random. Continue, generation after generation, until you have 'evolved' a biomorph that you like.

Java must enabled to be able to use the Biomorph applet!

About the Applet

The applet is derived from an algorithm conceived by Richard Dawkins and is described in his book The Blind Watchmaker and also in Artificial Life (Santa Fe Institute). In Climbing Mount Improbable Richard Dawkins extends the genotype to include a gene specifying the primitive used to draw the Biomorph. In addition, genes to specify the colour and control the segmentation of the Biomorphs are included in the Blind Watchmaker Applet.


Text and applet written by Mark Jones, Cambridge, UK.
Hosted by Department of Physics at Syracuse University. We are grateful to Mark Jones for allowing us to use his work.
Last updated 21 January 2001.