I know Sandkings is an older podcast, but I had some time this weekend and reread some classic science fiction. One of the stories I read was Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, and this story had to have been an influence on George R. R. Martin. The protagonist is a genius who creates an artificial race in a tank, continually mass murders them to force their evolution, gets established as their god, ruthlessly exploits them - and he's the hero of the story!
This story came out in 1941, back when we still thought colonial exploitation was cool. Aside from a hint at the end that this is going bit us one day, there's no indication that there's anything wrong with any of this.
If Martin wrote this as a reaction to sturgeon and was trying to deals with the ethics of the situation more than some cool technology, that seems to me a very good corrective.
Going back to this whole story, it's sort of a huge expansion of the concept of the genetic algorithm, which were kind of a thing about 10 years ago. Scientists would build these simulated single-celled organisms and an environment with rewards and stressors, then run millions of computer simulated cycles to see which ones performed the best under certain stresses.
I recently listened to the Clarkesworld podcast of Hummingbird, Resting on Honeysuckles, which revisited that idea as a way to construct an AI.