Abstract This paper presents an optimum design of high-speed short journal bearing using an enhanced artificial life algorithm (EALA) to compute the solutions of optimization problem. The proposed hybrid EALA algorithm is a synthesis of an artificial life algorithm (ALA) and the random tabu search method (R-tabu method) to solve some demerits of the ALA. The emergence is the most important feature of the artificial life which is the result of dynamic interaction among the individuals consisting of the system and is not found in an individual. The artificial life optimization algorithm is a stochastic searching algorithm using the feature of artificial life. The feature of R-tabu method, which prevents converging to the local minimum, is combined with the ALA. One of the features of the R-tabu method is to divide any given searching region into several sub-steps. As the result of the combination of the two methods, the EALA not only converges faster than the ALA, but also can lead to a more accurate solution. In addition, this algorithm can also find all global optimum solutions. We applied the hybrid algorithm to the optimum design of a short journal bearing. The optimized results were compared with those of ALA and successive quadratic programming, and identified the reliability and usefulness of the hybrid algorithm.