Alan N. Shapiro, Visiting Professor in Transdisciplinary Design, Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany

Blog and project archive about transdisciplinary design, media theory and creative coding

The Answer to the Question of Artificial Life

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co-author: Alexis Clancy

Artificial Life is an emerging movement within computer science which has as its goal to make software that is more “alive” rather than mechanistic.

This goal is similar to our goal.

However, Artificial Life has overlooked something very important and obvious.

It has overlooked that “vitality” already exists in knowledge fields and in creative arts.

Life means art, music, painting, dance, poetry, literature, languages, sexuality, society, spirituality.

Life means emotions, feelings, sensations, intuitions, colors.

In trying to make software “vital,” Artificial Life has focused on biology, evolution, genetics.

Artificial Life has tried to develop so-called “genetic algorithms” to imitate or remake the “evolutionary-genetic biological fundamentals of life.”

According to this “strong definition” of A-Life, evolutionary processes of genetic mutation, sexuated reproduction, and influence of the environment will get simulated via these algorithms and models.

This approach is too “techie” and mono-disciplinary.

The strong definition of “software as alive” ironically does not succeed and is getting nowhere.

Our claim for “software as alive” is weaker.

This “weak definition” of A-Life ironically will succeed.

Making software more lively means bringing into software all the fields of knowledge and areas of creation that computer science – in its 17th century Cartesian dualism and isolationism – has excluded.

Each pragmatic software design that we elaborate in diagrams and implement in code will add a dimension of vitality to object-orientation.

Our version of A-Life is the programming of breathing.

Our version of A-Life is the programming of movement.

Our version of A-Life is the programming of unity.

One Response

The quest for a deterministic certified and conclusive algorithm (“Strong Definition” A-Life) seems like a recipe only suitable for conjuring up the Dead Known. I think that your approach points instead towards “subject-oriented surprise” — the transformative power to reveal to us that which we did not know is already within our grasp. That is the power of art and of life. I hope that you and your confreres can concoct strategies (rather than algorithms) that help move us into that realm.