Artificial life - John C. Kirk
Dec. 16th, 2003
10:16 pm - Artificial life
I've been reading "The Blind Watchmaker" over the last couple of days - I haven't finished it yet, but I've now got up to the section that deals with biomorphs (which is relevant to my intended MSc project). It all looks quite interesting, from a personal point of view. My only concern is the "So what?" question that my project management book mentioned a few times. I'm not entirely sure how useful this stuff actually is, in the wider sense. But that's not a major issue at the moment.
When Dawkins talks about computer simulations, he says that he'd like to design a realistic system, but it's beyond his skills as a programmer, and beyond the capabilities of his hardware. This was written in 1986, so I obviously have a more powerful computer available to me, and I'm confident in my abilities as a programmer, so this is the type of comment that sets off "ding ding!" noises in my head. On the other hand, as it's been a while since this book was published, I think it's fair to say that I wouldn't exactly be doing groundbreaking work here, i.e. there are are other people who have already progressed Dawkins' ideas.
He then says that the important point is to simulate non-random death. One of my favourite Dork Tower refers to "the Sims". I have a suspicion that my project may well wind up going in the same direction. "Ok, so we have a stable ecology here. Time for some global warming - let's crank up the heat a few notches! Hmm, ok, you can all handle that. Well done. But can you handle ... a tidal wave? Mu-ha-ha!" Designing a "Ming the Merciless" interface (buttons for hail, hurricane, etc.) would be an optional extra.
This in turn makes me think about the Lone Power from Diane Duane's Wizardry books (which I've been reading recently, aside from the latest one which isn't out in paperback yet). The idea is that this Power introduced death/entropy into the universe, and this is generally considered to be a bad thing. Maybe it does have an up side after all...
I think some relevant examples from science fiction series on TV would be the Shadows in Babylon 5 and the DS9 episode "The Begotten" (where Odo sort of becomes a father).