Sebastian Risi and Kenneth O. Stanley (2014)
Guided Self-Organization in Indirectly Encoded and Evolving Topographic Maps
In: Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO 2014). New York, NY: ACM (8 pages).


An important phenomenon seen in many areas of biological brains and recently in deep learning architectures is a process known as self-organization. For example, in the primary visual cortex, color and orientation maps develop based on lateral inhibitory connectivity patterns and Hebbian learning dynamics. These topographic maps, which are found in all sensory systems, are thought to be a key factor in enabling abstract cognitive representations. This paper shows for the first time that the Hypercube-based NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies (HyperNEAT) method can be seeded to begin evolution with such lateral connectivity, enabling genuine self-organizing dynamics. The proposed approach draws on HyperNEAT’s ability to generate a pattern of weights across the connectivity of an artificial neural network (ANN) based on a function of its geometry. Validating this approach, the afferent weights of an ANN self-organize in this paper to form a genuine topographic map of the input space for a simple line orientation task. Most interestingly, this seed can then be evolved further, providing a method to guide the self-organization of weights in a specific way, much as evolution likely guided the self-organizing trajectories of biological brains.