Self-Replicating Hierarchical Structures Emerge in a Binary Cellular Automaton
Nonlinear Sciences, Cellular Automata and Lattice Gases, Cellular Automata and Lattice Gases (nlin.CG), Computational Complexity (cs.CC), Dynamical Systems (math.DS)
We have discovered a novel transition rule for binary cellular automata (CA) that yields self-replicating structures across two spatial and temporal scales from sparsely populated random initial conditions. Lower-level, shapeshifting clusters frequently follow a transient attractor trajectory, generating new clusters, some of which periodically self-duplicate. When the initial distribution of live cells is sufficiently sparse, these clusters coalesce into larger formations that also self-replicate. These formations may further form the boundaries of an expanding complex on an even larger scale. This rule, dubbed ``Outlier,'' is rotationally symmetric and applies to 2D Moore neighborhoods. It was evolved through Genetic Programming during an extensive automated search for rules that foster open-ended evolution in CA. While self-replicating structures, both crafted and emergent, have been created in CA with state sets intentionally designed for this purpose, the Outlier may be the first known rule to facilitate emergent self-replication across two spatial scales in simple binary CA.