Sunday, June 21, 2015

Artificial life?

“With the rise of artificial forms of life, the next phase of evolution may have already begun.” -- John Gray, The Soul of the Marionette, p. 148

But why should we think “artificial life” is anything but an analogy? We can simulate hurricanes, but these obviously only bear a very abstract resemblance to actual hurricanes, and in no way are about to become “the next phase” of the earth’s weather system. Is “artificial life” any different in this regard?


  1. Haven't read this book, so not entirely sure of the context or what he is referring to, but...

    It would seem to me that putting the 'genetic code' of an organism under the control of a rational, problem-solving being would be something of a 'quantum leap.' I'm by no means an expert on this topic, but it's my understanding that the development of processes like sexual reproduction and polyploidy (which allows homologous recombination) are believed to be similar in that they opened up the process of evolution to new, more effective ways to traverse 'fitness space' in a way that could accelerate the process towards more complex organisms that probably would not have been possible otherwise.

    Even just looking at, for example, domesticated animals, you see large fractions of living things now existing in the forms (and quantities) they do, purely at the convenience of one organism (us), who has figured out how to manipulate their genetics, in some cases with the primordial organism they derive from now being completely extinct (cows). If that is not artificial enough for you, how about the 'synthetic' critters guys like Craig Venter are cooking up?

    If you are talking about AI, well, I should think that an intelligent AI in control of it's own code would be a pretty phenomenal thing (supposing, of course, that it could exist, as you tend to question...)

    How significant? I don't know. But that kind of stuff looks significant to me, anyway. I suppose maybe it's something of a judgment call...

    1. Artificial life generally means "life" existing on a computer. This code has "genes" and evolves, but what I am saying is that it is "life" in the same sense that a simulated hurricane is a hurricane.

  2. Ok, that does not sound very interesting at all. Not even as interesting as...cows.

    I agree. That's simulated life, not artificial.


Sitting on the Docker Bay

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