The Genius Behind the Ingenious is a Biologic Institue article. This appears in it:
Actually, as you may have guessed, attempts to harness the principles of evolution on computers have been underway for many years now. The field dedicated to this undertaking is known as evolutionary computing, and the results are not altogether encouraging for evolutionary biology.
It’s not that evolutionary design has failed on computers—far from it. One of the most celebrated successes, for example, is a NASA antenna that looks like a bent paper clip.  It may not be much to look at, but this odd little design works better than any known alternative, which is why NASA has deployed it in space.
A photo of the paper clip can be viewed at the link. The authors explain that the means by which designs are realized entails the assignment of design parameters to virtual prototypes and assessing them with a mathematical model. The idea is to model natural selection by favoring the replication of better prototypes. The better ones would become more prevalent in a virtual population. Mutation is simulated through slight changes in the parameter values of prototypes. Procedural variations to this general approach exist but "culling, replicating, and mutating" persist to derive an acceptable design. This also from the article:
Two major limitations to evolutionary processes seem to assure this. First, it turns out that if you want these processes to go anywhere, you really do need to master the design principles specific to your objective. You’d better believe the NASA team did their homework for the task they were tackling—they knew what materials to use, they knew the range of dimensions to explore, they knew what kind of geometric space to explore, and they knew how to model the performance of any prototype within those specifications. So the software they used was intelligently pre-configured for this particular design task and no other.
This strikes a familiar chord. Pre-configuring software for a design outcome is very much like the concept of pre-configuring genomes to front load them for directed evolution. TT commenter Allen MacNeill recently weighed in on another thread with this comment:
"…natural selection doesn't "produce" anything. As Darwin himself wrote to his friend Charles Lyell, natural selection preserves certain forms and eliminates others. The real "engine" of change in biology is not natural selection, but rather the "engines of variation" that produce the blizzard of new forms, a few of whom survive and reproduce."
Measure engines of variation by the extent of genomic pre-configuration required to enable specified outcomes. The article concludes with these observations:
In the case of antennas, it’s easy to find prototypes that work, and nothing can go horribly wrong if you tweak one of those prototypes. That makes the task of zeroing in on a good design relatively easy. Flash drives, on the other hand, are a different story—no one expects to make a working prototype of one of those by accident, or to improve an engineered version by accident.
The problem, of course, is that the designs of biology look more like flash drives (on steroids) than coat-hanger antennas. Parker definitely got that one right.
So, in light of this, we think it’s time to turn the logic around. If it was reasonable to think that selection ought to be as powerful in virtual worlds as it is in the real world (and we think it was), then the considerable limitations we now see demonstrated (even proven) in virtual worlds should perhaps make us re-think the extravagant claims we make about selection in the real world.
Maybe the intuitions that enable us to recognize brilliant design should be kept in mind when we try to explain it.