A game of Go (Photo: Jonathan Riechel/Pixabay)

What are the key moves that animate the game of life? In a new op-ed at Nautilus, SFI President David Krakauer explains that they bear a striking resemblance to the key moves that animate the game of Go.

The history of life is written in the language of evolutionary biology, but we’ve been mistranslating for some time, Krakauer explains. Until relatively recently, adaptive evolution has been depicted as an “inexorable sequence of tactical moves,” a zero-sum game, in which one adaptive genotype “benefits at the cost of all the others”— a faulty oversimplification.

In two new papers, Krakauer observes, we see that evolution follows a path that cannot be explained with such a simple scheme. While tit-for-tat processes happen on the surface (much like Sente, a tactical move we witness in Go), it is also the case that we observe other kinds of processes, processes that look much more like Aji in Go, a strategic position a player builds to set up latent potential for tactical moves later in the game.

By revisiting adaptive evolution with the analogy of complex strategic games like Go and chess, Krakauer argues, we can illuminate the strategic qualities of adaptive evolution that we have been missing all along.

Read the article in Nautilus (December 16, 2020)