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1. Artificial Life: A Report from
2. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics,
3. Metacreation: Art and Artificial
4. The Philosophy of Artificial Life
5. Art in the Age of Technoscience:
6. Introduction to Artificial Life
7. Artificial Life III (Santa Fe
8. Artificial Life II (Santa Fe Institute
9. Creation: Life and How to Make
10. Virtual Worlds: Second International
11. Artificial Life: An Overview (Complex
12. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing
13. Artificial Life IV: Proceedings
14. AI and Artificial Life in Video
15. Artificial Life
16. Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life
17. Fourth European Conference on
18. Artificial Life: Explorer's Kit
19. Artificial Life VI: Proceedings
20. Artificial Life V: Proceedings

1. Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology
by Steven Levy
Paperback: 400 Pages (1993-07-27)
list price: US$21.00 -- used & new: US$5.00
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Asin: 0679743898
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Even as molecular biologists attempt to reproduce life in vitro, another group of scientists is creating life--or something very close to it--in silico, using computers to produce "organisms" that can move, see, feed, reproduce, and die. Photos. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb!!
AL is popular science writing of the first order: informative, clear, fascinating, and entertaining.My only disappointment is that it was published in 1992, and thus does not touch on developments in the field since then.I'd love to know how these have panned out, and whether scientists remain enthusiastic about the possibilities of A-Life.Judging from the textbooks on A-life that have been published since 1992, the field is alive, at least, and I can only assume it is well to boot.I'll have to hunt for bibliography elsewhere.My thanks to Levy for sending me on this hunt.AL is a book to fire the imagination.I'd give it 10 stars!

A note on the metaphysical material in AL that bears on the question of whether present iterations of 'artificial life' are, or whether future iterations may one day be, sufficiently complex that they should be considered true LIFE: throughout, Levy stresses the essential link between an (')organism(') (wet or dry) and its environment.Yet, it seems to me, in discussing the question of the LIFE-status of in-silico 'organisms', he considers the 'organisms' alone.I wonder whether this apparent preference reflects his own bias, or a bias on the part of the scientists he profiles?From the perspective of emergent behavior and the capacity to evolve, etc., AL 'creatures' self-evidently bear a striking resemblance to biological creatures.It strikes me, however, that a key consideration in the wet-life as LIFE versus dry-'life' as LIFE argument -- is that wet-life organisms express emergent behavior and evolve, etc., in environments that are, throughout, rife with other life, whereas dry-'life' 'organisms' do the same in environments that are otherwise sterile (by the standards that A-Life scientists themselves would apply).Some consideration of how environments contribute to the LIFE-status of particular (')organism(')s, and of any definition of LIFE (wet or dry) itself, seems to be of the essence.Yet another thought to pursue -- though doubtless ethologists, philosophers, and A-Life scientists have beaten me there.Proof positive that AL is a highly thought-provoking book.Read it!

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Beginners book
I just loved this book. It gives the novice a very good sampling of the future of Artificial Intellegence and Artificial Life. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the discovery of machine virus'. Somewhat dated, but an extremely good read.

5-0 out of 5 stars My Review of this Book
I have read this book.

It is about artifical intelligence. If you have a computer you will know exactly what I mean. When you hook up a computer, it acts alive, and you gotta interact with it like it is artifically intelligent.

Like when I hook up the voice-recognition thing where you speake into the mikerofone, it acts like it hears you too, and does what it is told to do. Sometimes that is to write a letter, or to tell it to go onto the net.

I told my computer to go onto the net once thru the mike, and it did it, as it was spoken and said what to do.

So if you read and buy this book you will learn to do this, and hook it up yourself. The book has plans and charts to do all this stuff. When you read it, pass it onto a friend, and they may help you once they read it themselves.

I gave this book 5-stars, because it was a very good one, and I will now know how my computer is so smart. I told it what to do, and it help me with this revue to. So buy it but just one time, because a friend and other people will be able to read this for free, once you give it to them.

Engines are my hobbie, and so are electronic power supplys, so I plan to use this book for that to. I will design new ones that are faster than sound, and my computer will be smart and help me with that.

So buy this book, once, and you will like it along with all the friendly people that you knowe.That's my revuiew, but I will do anew one when a new adition of the book comes out to the press.

I do recomend that you buy this one time for the people who wanto know about how artifical intelligent computers get smarter and help you with life-things you need to do, but not all by yourselfe, but with a computer.

4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent intro to a new science
While the concept of artificial life has been around at least since humans developed self-awareness, the commensurate decline of religion and rise of the scientific method was necessary for it to become a point of real debate.However, it was not until September 1987 when the event occurred that established a-life as an academic discipline, namely a conference devoted to its study.This work uses that event as a starting point, and does a superb job of presenting nearly all perspectives, including historical.
Like its counterpart, artificial intelligence, the discipline of a-life suffers from a lack of definition. There is no agreement on what life or intelligence are.Additional disagreement arises over the following distinctive descriptions of life.

(a) Objects such as rocks can be assigned a life (intelligence) value of zero and as we moveupward to humans and beyond, the measure of life (intelligence) characteristics isdescribed by a smooth, continuous function where the first derivative never becomes very large, but is always positive.There is no clearly discernible boundary between life and non-life.

(b) Starting from the same initial position as (a), the derivative stays close to zero for some time, and then suddenly becomes unbounded, as the matter now possesses the fundamental essence of life (intelligence).That point of the vertical derivative is the boundary point between animate and inanimate objects.

Much of this book deals with cellular automata and the algorithms used to create them.Like so many new, perhaps revolutionary disciplines, the major players tend to be free spirits.Many of the people described here bounced around before finding their ecological niche in a-life.With the exception of the originators, John von Neumann and John Horton Conway, those who established the study of cellular automata as an academic discipline were academic outsiders who literally created it from nothing.The explanation of that is very well done.While most of the work has been done by computer, no previous knowledge is necessary to understand the text.
One item could have been better handled, but that is largely due to the problems with definitions.Like the workers in chaos, a-lifers tend to see what they want to see.For example, simple rules are used to create an image that either looks or acts like something known to be alive and this is used to argue that life is being created or that the rules that create life are simple.Which is an extremely weak argument.What is being created are items that human eyes interpret as looking like life, and as all psychologists know, the human brain processes images with a bias towards previous experience.The devil's advocate against is a shadow here.However, it is difficult to argue in the negative when you are aiming at a nebulous target.
Whatever your interest in a-life, you will find something of value in this book.Biologists and philosophers who teach general education courses will also find a good deal of discussion material.The hypothetical qualification has been removed form the debate, as there are now objects to argue about.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission

5-0 out of 5 stars fascinating
I read this more than three years ago, before I started my undergraduate studies. I knew I was going to study computer science, but after reading this book I knew I would forever be drawn to the multidisciplinary fields of biology and computer science. From the question of the origin of life to intelligence, the book convinced me that a new approach is needed to solve these old mysteries.

It's not a masterpiece of literature, but it was interesting enough to forever change my research career. ... Read more

2. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (Bradford Books)
by John Johnston
Paperback: 480 Pages (2010-09-30)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$14.40
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Asin: 0262515024
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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In The Allure of Machinic Life, John Johnston examines new forms of nascent life that emerge through technical interactions within human-constructed environments—"machinic life"—in the sciences of cybernetics, artificial life, and artificial intelligence. With the development of such research initiatives as the evolution of digital organisms, computer immune systems, artificial protocells, evolutionary robotics, and swarm systems, Johnston argues, machinic life has achieved a complexity and autonomy worthy of study in its own right.

Drawing on the publications of scientists as well as a range of work in contemporary philosophy and cultural theory, but always with the primary focus on the "objects at hand"—the machines, programs, and processes that constitute machinic life—Johnston shows how they come about, how they operate, and how they are already changing. This understanding is a necessary first step, he further argues, that must precede speculation about the meaning and cultural implications of these new forms of life.

Developing the concept of the "computational assemblage" (a machine and its associated discourse) as a framework to identify both resemblances and differences in form and function, Johnston offers a conceptual history of each of the three sciences. He considers the new theory of machines proposed by cybernetics from several perspectives, including Lacanian psychoanalysis and "machinic philosophy." He examines the history of the new science of artificial life and its relation to theories of evolution, emergence, and complex adaptive systems (as illustrated by a series of experiments carried out on various software platforms). He describes the history of artificial intelligence as a series of unfolding conceptual conflicts—decodings and recodings—leading to a "new AI" that is strongly influenced by artificial life. Finally, in examining the role played by neuroscience in several contemporary research initiatives, he shows how further success in the building of intelligent machines will most likely result from progress in our understanding of how the human brain actually works. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars the allure of information science
It feels a little wrong to call this a damn fun read, but I'm an ex-EECS geek and love when people write really good histories of (information) science.The intro and first chapter should be required reading for any course on organized and self-organized information systems.They really nicely frame the development and arguments of cybernetics around its key people (Shannon, Ashby, Walter, von Foerster), key concepts (complexity, automata, logical machines, information), and best of all, key objects (Walter's homeostat, von Foerster's Tortoises).It's just a clear, impressive delivery of a broadening field.

_Allure_ offers some real gems, like when it demonstrates convergences of AI/AL, and humanistic theory.I'd never expected the frightening similarity between Lacan's drawings of psychic processes, and Hopcroft's state/transition diagrams of finite automata, but I love how similarities like that become building blocks for the book's really clear expositions of later AI/AL experiments.The rest of the book feels like it's drawing together all the contemporary events in AI/AL so that it can explain why those developments are important, how they came about, and how they change the way we understand basic ideas like ecology, evolution, the mind.Like I said, damn fun.

Would have been nice to have a collected work cited page, for easy reference. ... Read more

3. Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life
by Mitchell Whitelaw
Paperback: 293 Pages (2006-04-01)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$9.89
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Asin: 0262731762
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Artificial life, or a-life, is an interdisciplinary science focused on artificial systems that mimic the properties of living systems. In the 1990s, new media artists began appropriating and adapting the techniques of a-life science to create a-life art; Mitchell Whitelaw's Metacreation is the first detailed critical account of this new field of creative practice.

A-life art responds to the increasing technologization of living matter by creating works that seem to mutate, evolve, and respond with a life of their own. Pursuing a-life's promise of emergence, these artists produce not only artworks, but generative and creative processes: here creation becomes metacreation.

Whitelaw presents a-life art practice through four of its characteristic techniques and tendencies. "Breeders" use artificial evolution to generate images and forms, in the process altering the artist's creative agency. "Cybernatures" form complex, interactive systems, drawing the audience into artificial ecosystems. Other artists work in "Hardware," adapting Rodney Brooks's "bottom-up" robotics to create embodied autonomous agencies. The "Abstract Machines" of a-life art de-emphasize the biological analogy, using techniques such as cellular automata to investigate pattern, form and morphogenesis.

In the book's concluding chapters, Whitelaw surveys the theoretical discourses around a-life art, before finally examining emergence, a concept central to a-life, and key, it is argued, to a-life art. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars a-life or alive?
From Conway's Game of Life and efforts by other people, artificial life has been a fascinating field. Whitelaw shows how this has been extended by artists, into fabricating creations that blend computing into art.

Some of you may have known about such things as cellular automata and how structures might propagate, and well as the use of fractals for renderings of irregular objects. The book shows how this is taken further, with some lovely results. There is certainly an undercurrent that something seems to be alive in these works. ... Read more

4. The Philosophy of Artificial Life (Oxford Readings in Philosophy)
Paperback: 416 Pages (1996-05-09)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$29.99
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Asin: 0198751559
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This new volume in the acclaimed Oxford Readings in Philosophy sereis offers a selection of the most important philosophical work being done in the new and fast-growing interdisciplinary area of artificial life. Artificial life research seeks to synthesize the characteristics of life by artificial means, particularly employing computer technology.The essays here explore such fascinating themes as the nature of life, the relation between life and mind, and the limits of technology. ... Read more

5. Art in the Age of Technoscience: Genetic Engineering, Robotics, and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art
by Ingeborg Reichle
Paperback: 422 Pages (2009-09-29)
list price: US$49.95 -- used & new: US$40.42
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Asin: 3211781609
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Is science the new art? Starting from this provocative question, art historian Ingeborg Reichle examines in her book fascinating responses of contemporary artists when faced with recent scientific and technological advances. In the last two decades a growing number of artists has left the traditional artistic playground to work instead in scientific contexts such as the laboratories of molecular biology, robotics, and artificial life. New art forms like “Transgenic Art" and "Bio-Art” have emerged from the laboratory. These art forms differ dramatically from traditional artistic approaches that explore the natural: they have crossed the boundaries between the artificial and the natural, and thus provoke passionate debates about the growing influence of science and technology. This first comprehensive survey presents a well-selected number of significant artworks and with over 280 colour illustrations provides a broad overview of this new and relevant development in art.

... Read more

6. Introduction to Artificial Life
by Christoph Adami
Hardcover: 374 Pages (1997-12-19)
list price: US$99.00 -- used & new: US$156.18
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Asin: 0387946462
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Life is so diverse and complex that is seems impossible to extract the general principles governing individual living systems. The amazing growth of the power of modern computers has opened up entirely new avenues for exploring the behavior of living systems by allowing us to design and conduct experiments with models, "Artificial Life," which may in turn lead to a set of "general principles of the living state" independent of particular implementations. Such a "theory of living systems" might be able to predict the evolution not only of worlds in which information is coded in binary strings that behave accrding to programs that have the ability to replicate, but also of the systems that gave rise to life on earth.This book and CD-ROM were developed in a lab-oriented course taught at Cal Tech in 1995 and 1996, and simultaneously augmented by "A-Life" research conducted there. The courses were attended by students from physics, computer science, and neural sciences. Prerequisites were an understanding of statistical physics, thermodynamics, and basic biology, and a familiarity with computer architectures and scientific computing techniques.The A-Life project brought together the theory of systems of self-replicating information and their experimental realization with the intent of leading us further along the road not only to uncover aspects of complex systems that have remained hidden or misunderstood because of computational difficulties, but also perhaps to discover general principles of the living state.The accompanying CD-ROM is designed to run on Windows and Unix machines. It includes the AVIDA software, along with an electronic version of the users manual; a Java applet that can be used to do Cellular Automata homework; and additional software pertaining to particular chapters in the book, such as a sandpile and a percolation program. URLs for relevant A-Life web pages and software nesting at remote servers are also provided. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Adami's Book Is Extraordinarily Important
It represents a true landmark in the new field of Artificial Life,
and will find a wide readership,
ranging from university students to professional researchers."
- Prof. Dr. Heinz G. Schuster,
University of Kiel,
Author of Deterministic Chaos: An Introduction
[from the back cover]

2-0 out of 5 stars Great Content, Author Can't Explain Clearly Though
I bought this book to understand the mathematics and physics in A-Life and Complexity.Instead I found this bookvery long winded and difficult to comprehend exactly what was trying to be said.The content and layout of the book is great, just wish a better writer had been the author of this book. Lots of fancy, big words that are not needed to get the basic points across.Very hard to understand what is being said.It takes smarts and skill to explain complicated, abstract ideas in a meaningful manner.This book does not do that.I wish it did!

5-0 out of 5 stars At times cryptic, but nevertheless marvellous
This is the ONLY book I have seen which brings together all the many and various strands which are essential to the exciting new subjects arising currently around the question: What is Life? It is a stunning tour de forceof the basic knowledge you need to possess to work in the areas of A-lifeor biological complexity.

I should warn: it's not a book I could readthrough in an afternoon, by any means. At times the descriptions are alittle cryptic, so that I had to work at understanding what was being said.But the effort I had to put in was always rewarded with greaterunderstanding. Thank you, Chris Adami.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hard Science
Adami demonstrates how to use the tools of artificial life to conduct pure scientific research. A very clear and readable textbook on the subject, Adami makes me want to go back to graduate school. Here is a chance to take an introductory course in an exciting field of research that is truelytable-top science. I loved the book and I didn't even use the CD andsoftware that came with it.

4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent textbook for this rapidly changing field.
Adami's book is the first comprehensive review of issues pertinent to thefield of artificial life. The book is a textbook based on his lectures atCalTech. Some of the topics are a bit brief (Turing machines are summarizedin four pages) but that is to be expected for a book whose goal is tointegrate concepts from the fields of biology, chemistry, statistics,computer science, information science, etc. I found the book fascinatingand Chris includes a CD-rom and several chapters on the Avida simulationdeveloped at CalTech. There are numerous references and problems at the endof each chapter. ... Read more

7. Artificial Life III (Santa Fe Institute Series)
 Paperback: 599 Pages (1994-01-20)
list price: US$42.00 -- used & new: US$121.38
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Asin: 020162494X
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Collection of papers presented at the Third Artificial Life Workshop, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in June of 1992. Paper. ... Read more

8. Artificial Life II (Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity Proceedings)
by Christopher G. Langton, Charles Taylor, J. Doyne Farmer, Steen Rasmussen
Paperback: 880 Pages (2003-04-17)
list price: US$70.00 -- used & new: US$70.00
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Asin: 0201525712
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Artificial life is a new field of scientific inquiry that studies biology by attempting to synthesize such biological phenomena as life, evolution, and ecological dynamics within computers and other "artificial" media. In addition to uncovering new ways to study life as we know it, a life extends research to the larger domain of life as it could be, whatever it might be made of and wherever it might be found in the universe.This proceedings volume, based on the second artificial life workshop held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1990, reflects the evolution and horizons of this rich field of study, and builds on the proceedings of the seminal first workshop, held at Los Alamos in 1987 (also available from Addison Wesley). This compendium includes more than 30 papers spanning the spectrum of a-life research, from studies of the origin of life to models of complex systems.
... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Artificial Life is the new Artificial Intelligence.
If you are intrested in how biological systems can be simulated via computer or in what contect computer programs or computer simulations can be called alive -- this is the book to read.

Eventhou the articials in this book are technical reports from a scientific conference most provide easy reading for the layperson.

Artificial Life is a fassinating scientific endevor that seeks to do for biology what Artificial Instelligence did for psychology -- model biological processes, instead of mental processes on the computer and look to biology as a model for computation -- using techniques such as Genetic Algorithms, Cellular Automata and Neural Networks.

I find that all the books I've read that were published by the Santa Fe Institute to be intresting -- how ever the Artifical Life series is the easiest for an armchair scientist to grasp. ... Read more

9. Creation: Life and How to Make it
by Steve Grand
Paperback: 240 Pages (2001-10-04)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$0.99
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Asin: 0753812770
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Mankind now has within its grasp the power to synthesize true artificial life, playing out Dr Frankenstein's dream in both cyberspace and the real world. In this book, Steve Grand, a leading exponent of artificial life, provides the first authoritative and comprehensive tour of the frontiers of this burgeoning new creation. He surveys what has been achieved so far and looks at future possibilities for generating autonomous, intelligent, even conscious living things. The fundamental questions he tackles range widely: what is life? What should the minds, brains and bodies of these new life forms be like? What philosophical guidelines and computational frameworks are necessary? At the heart of this brilliantly accessible and thought-provoking book is the author's unique imaginative vision - a vision based on his experience of making some of the most advanced artificial life currently available. ... Read more

10. Virtual Worlds: Second International Conference, VW 2000 Paris, France, July 5-7, 2000 Proceedings (Lecture Notes in Computer Science / Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence)
Paperback: 314 Pages (2000-07-31)
list price: US$84.95 -- used & new: US$68.03
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Asin: 3540677070
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This book constitutes the refereed proceedings of the Second International Conference on Virtual Worlds, VW 2000, held in Paris, France, in July 2000. The 26 revised full papers presented together with two invited contributions were carefully reviewed and selected from numerous submissions. The book is divided into topical sections on virtual worlds communities and applications, virtual worlds technologies and tools, virtual humans and avatars, art and virtual worlds, artificial life and complex systems, and virtual reality and interfaces. ... Read more

11. Artificial Life: An Overview (Complex Adaptive Systems)
Paperback: 336 Pages (1997-01-22)
list price: US$40.00 -- used & new: US$8.29
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Asin: 0262621126
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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Artificial life, a field that seeks to increase the role of synthesis in the study of biological phenomena, has great potential, both for unlocking the secrets of life and for raising a host of disturbing issues -- scientific and technical as well as philosophical and ethical. This book brings together a series of overview articles that appeared in the first three issues of the groundbreaking journal Artificial Life, along with a new introduction by Christopher Langton, Editor-in-Chief of Artificial Life, founder of the discipline, and Director of the Artificial Life Program at the Santa Fe Institute. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

1-0 out of 5 stars Reprint for money
Why not just go to the library and pick up volume 1 of the Artificial Life journal. That's all this is. Did someone really have the gall to sell us a journal twice? Yes, Virginia, I guess they did.

5-0 out of 5 stars GOOD

1-0 out of 5 stars An eclectic gathering of papers on dynamic systems
Langton pulls together a number of interesting papers from the Los Alamos a-life conference, bound with the perspective only he can provide. Great for the technically-minded curious but most promising as storehouse of ideas for experimentors in dynamic adaptive systems. ... Read more

12. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World, Updated With a New Preface
by Stefan Helmreich
Paperback: 330 Pages (2000-08-29)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$8.98
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Asin: 0520208005
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Silicon Second Nature takes us on an expedition into an extraordinary world where nature is made of bits and bytes and life is born from sequences of zeroes and ones. Artificial Life is the brainchild of scientists who view self-replicating computer programs--such as computer viruses--as new forms of life. Anthropologist Stefan Helmreich's look at the social and simulated worlds of Artificial Life--primarily at the Santa Fe Institute, a well-known center for studies in the sciences of complexity--introduces readers to the people and programs connected with this unusual hybrid of computer science and biology.

When biology becomes an information science, when DNA is downloaded into virtual reality, new ways of imagining "life" become possible. Through detailed dissections of the artifacts of Artifical Life, Helmreich explores how these novel visions of life are recombining with the most traditional tales told by Western culture. Because Artificial Life scientists tend to see themselves as masculine gods of their cyberspace creations, as digital Darwins exploring frontiers filled with primitive creatures, their programs reflect prevalent representations of gender, kinship, and race, and repeat origin stories most familiar from mythical and religious narratives.

But Artificial Life does not, Helmreich says, simply reproduce old stories in new software. Much like contemporary activities of cloning, cryonics, and transgenics, the practice of simulating and synthesizing life in silico challenges and multiplies the very definition of vitality. Are these models, as some would claim, actually another form of the real thing? Silicon Second Nature takes Artifical Life as a symptom and source of our mutating visions of life itself.Amazon.com Review
Few scientific disciplines are as ripe for ethnographic studyas artificial life, known as a-life, a hybrid, high-tech field withpractitioners who routinely suggest that the self-replicating computerprograms they design not only mimic but actually are livingcreatures. As Stanford anthropologist Stefan Helmreich convincinglydemonstrates, it takes more than just chutzpah to advance such aclaim--it takes a powerful belief system. The belief system Helmreichfingers is the complex web of historical, mythical, and religiousnarratives that form the fabric of modern Western culture.

Ofcourse, a good deal of solid science goes into a-life's elaboratedigital simulations of the biological world, and Helmreich takes carenot to let his cultural analysis drown that science out. Indeed, hisdescriptions of the theories and techniques behind some researchers'attempts at concocting artificial life--ranging from simple computerviruses to Tom Ray's globally distributed Tierra system for breedingdigital "organisms"--are occasionally more compelling than his ownattempts to read disturbing racial and sexual mythologies into thoseexperiments.

Ultimately, though, what fascinates Helmreich abouta-life is neither the biology nor the mythology, but the way thisunique discipline highlights the intersection of the two. A-liferesearchers may or may not have created new organisms, but what theyhave created, Helmreich argues, points the way to a new and moresophisticated understanding of the delicate relationship betweenscience and culture. --Julian Dibbell ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not All Artificial Life is Fiction

As a novelist, I delight in creating artificial life, primarily the human kind, and the more realistic the better. No wonder, then, that the idea of artificial life interests me in general. Still, my motive to weigh in here comes less from the book itself than from the reviews already posted, since I found little to agree with, whether they offered pans or praise. My own take is that Mr. Helmreich deserves four stars, at least for readers seeking a broad and thought-ful intro-duction to the field of computer-resident artificial life (AL).

One big plus is that he's an anthropologist, not a super-techie like most AL practi-tioners. Hence, no meandering pages of equations or endless tech-speak. Moreover, an anthropo-logical approach allows examination of not only the notable AL experiments and their methodo-logy, but of the field's intellectual roots, its cultural assumptions, and the perso-nal and professio-nal biographies of its prominent figures. In other words, pure fun by my definition.

In the early chapters especially, much is made of how the name AL arose. The emphasis, though, for many practitioners, is on the L, life, with some making extravagant claims that this life is in-distinguishable in "realness" from natural forms that we all acknow-ledge as alive. Sorry, I don't buy it, and Helmreich presents a number of counter arguments. Yet I'm quite wil-ling to settle for the name AL, as long as both words, artificial and life, are accorded equal weight.

It's also troubling to read of experimenters who refer to the entities their byte-models of DNA produce as "people" and to themselves as "gods." Certainly Helmreich could have titled that par-ticular chapter Prometheus Lives. One also wonders if these human gods have program-med their people to worship them. From the attitudes expressed, the impulse is clearly there. Helmreich apparently chose not to ask. Nonetheless, I find the experiments fascinating and think they may ultimately tell us quite a bit about evolutionary processes that we currently don't know and have no other means to find out.

Perhaps the Achilles Heel in all this isn't the fact that, since AL forms have no corporeal exis-tence, they can't independently store energy in case of a power failure, but that the researchers are in such a hurry. What evolution took billions of years to accomplish they want within their life-times--think Nobel Prize--so all manner of shortcuts abound, even including, in some models, a Lamarckian passing along of traits acquired by individuals within a single generation. As per the old saying, you can have fast, cheap and good, pick two. Yet, again, I'm fasci-nated by what might unfold and not all models are polluted by obvious expediency.

The book's major faults represent things I hold the publisher, University of California Press, more accountable for than I do Helmreich. One is that its hardcover pub date remains 1999. A field that is changing--dare I say evolving--at an exploding rate cries out for a new, updated edition, and Helmreich would be a fool to turn down the opportunity, were it offered.

The second fault echoes what some negative reviewers have already said. In commenting on prac-titioners at the Santa Fe Institute, AL's international ground zero, Helmreich points out that they are over-whelmingly well-fed, white, heterosexual males with backgrounds in physics and engineering, and speculates that it colors the attributes they program into their AL worlds. Not hard to grasp and likely true. Where this line of analysis goes wanting is that UC Press allowed him to repeat it boringly and redundantly in nearly every chapter rather than simply mak-ing refer-ence to the potential cultural biases previously noted. Authors tend to get carried away with their own words. I know, I am one, but that's exactly why we need, and put up with, editors.

4-0 out of 5 stars What a revelation!
I must admit that it took me repeated readings to appreciate the depth of the research that has gone into this insightful book. Dr. Stefan Helmreich's critique of the tribe of Artificial Life scientists is right on, courageous and extremely thought provoking.


1-0 out of 5 stars Inside Stefan's head
The cover blurb says "Anthropologist Stefan Helmreich's look at the social and simulated worlds of Artificial Life" and it turns out to be horribly true.I hoped to learn how the programmers viewed their simulated worlds, and how that relates to their culture.Instead I found how Stefan looks at the programmers, and what he thinks of science.The background description of individuals and institutions isn't bad.The rest is.

Camille Paglia is not usually classified as an anthropologist, but this book reminded me of her - if she couldn't write well and ignored the culture she wrote about.This book has little bearing on its purported subject, and the author's personal views of science aren't interesting (largely because he's speaking on a subject he clearly doesn't understand).If you want Camille Paglia, read Camille Paglia.If you want an actual anthroplogical study of science or A-life, don't waste your time here.

2-0 out of 5 stars An entertaining disappointment
Stefan Helmreich presents an entertaining glimpse into the culture, the lives, and the musings of many of the leading voices in the field of artificial life.One of the real strengths of this book is his ability to offer a perspective from 'inside' the discipline--a view not only of the history and present status and future direction of the field of artificial life, but of the scientists and researchers responsible.That, plus his personal fascination with the subject matter and his obvious writing skills, strike you within the first few pages.This was at times a literate and enjoyable read.

Unfortunately, it was also frustrating and, ultimately, disappointing.Frustrating because it is patently obvious that the author approached his subject matter with his ethnographic conclusions firmly in place prior to ever examining the evidence.There is no other way one can explain the lengths he goes to convince the reader that white, heterosexual, male-dominated mythologies lurk under every bush he came across in Santa Fe.As such, truly interesting questions he raises--such as the religious aspect of silicon-based creation--are either left unread by the reader long since turned off by his biased approach, or else unfairly dismissed as equally prejudiced.

And disappointing, because in the long run most of his efforts are either irrelevant, or trivial.Computational studies in evolution are at bottom a matter of binary code.Zero's and one's.They are neither black nor white, Baptist or Buddhist, straight or gay, male or female.Now, clearly the researcher at their computer may indeed be any of the above--but that does not change the code itself.So in this sense Helmreich's observations are irrelevant.On the other hand, no one would argue the fact that personal bias may well contaminate interpretations of computational results.Personal bias may well contaminate almost everything we say and do, to one degree or another.But that is a rather trivial observation to make--one that has everything to do with human beings, and next to nothing to do with the science of computational evolution, which is what I had assumed from the title "Silicon Second Nature" that this book was about.

1-0 out of 5 stars Inpenetrable
The best I can say about this book is that it is the most outstanding example of academic pretentiousness I've ever encountered. The author's acknowledgments alone cover six pages and include over 185 names.
My own background includes a college education (philosophy and mathematics) and ten years as a college instructor in computer science. I'm quite used to reading and comprehending technically sophisticated literature, often poorly written. I can even claim to have understood much of Microsoft's documentation for their developer products. Nevertheless, I found Mr. Helmreich's prose quite inpenetrable. If his goal was to explain the people and culture behind the new field of Artificial Life to a lay audience, he has failed miserably.
To be fair, I must admit that I put the book down after struggling through the first thirty pages of the main text. The book's cover states that Mr. Helmreich is a professor at NYU. If the prose in his book is any indication of the lucidity of his lectures to his students, they have my deepest sympathy. ... Read more

13. Artificial Life IV: Proceedings of the Fourth International Workshop on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems
Paperback: 772 Pages (1994-09-13)
list price: US$90.00 -- used & new: US$37.99
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Asin: 0262521903
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July 6-8, 1994 · the Massachusetts Institute of Technology The field of artificial life has recently emerged through the interaction of research in biology, physics, parallel computing, artificial intelligence, and complex adaptive systems. The goal is to understand, through synthetic experiments, the organizational principles underlying the dynamics (usually the nonlinear dynamics) of living systems. This book brings together contributions to the Fourth Artificial Life Workshop, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the summer of 1994. Topics include: Self-organization and emergent functionality. Definitions of life. Origin of life. Self-reproduction. Computer viruses. Synthesis of "the living state." Evolution and population genetics. Coevolution and ecological dynamics. Growth, development, and differentiation. Organization and behavior of social and colonial organisms. Animal behavior. Global and local ecosystems and their intersections. Autonomous agents (mobile robots and software agents). Collective intelligence ("swarm" intelligence). Theoretical biology. Philosophical issues in A-life (from ontology to ethics). Formalisms and tools for A-life research. Guidelines and safeguards for the practice of A-life. A Bradford Book ... Read more

14. AI and Artificial Life in Video Games
by Guy W. Lecky-Thompson
Hardcover: 352 Pages (2008-05-15)
list price: US$39.99 -- used & new: US$10.90
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Asin: 1584505583
Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars
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Learn how to create more challenging and dynamic games with AI and Artificial Life in Video Games. AI, or artificial intelligence, builds better games by directing behaviors inside the games that make them more difficult, while artificial life, or A-Life, adds unpredictability of play and a more lifelike environment to games. This book examines easy and inexpensive methods for implementing AI and A-Life in any video game to not only model behavior in the game but also create tools, generate code, and test the game during development. After introducing the basics of AI and A-Life to use as building blocks, the book delves into more advanced methods and examines possible future uses and techniques. You?ll learn how AI can be built up in a game by layering behavioral models on static data to produce behavior that is both intelligent and unpredictable. Examples of several A-Life enhancements in games are presented, and you?ll investigate the potential pitfalls of using AI and how to troubleshoot, apply A-Life to your own games, test A-Life itself and test virtually using A-Life, implement AI and A-Life in a multiplayer environment, and more. Written for the current and next-generation game developer, AI and Artificial Life in Video Games is a great reference for both game programmers and game designers. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

1-0 out of 5 stars The Worst
I have a lot of AI game programming books and this is certainly the worst of them. The author explains everything wrong from the very beginning of the book (and I know it because I'm an AI academic), and keeps repeating everything in every chapter without adding anything useful (and with a lot of errors). I thought that by being a very recent book (2008) it would have a lot of better content and more recent techniques, but a book from 2003 (AI Game Development: Synthetic Creatures with Learning and Reactive Behaviors (New Riders Games), my favorite until now) has much more content and with higher quality, without being obsolete.
A total waste of money. ... Read more

15. Artificial Life
by Nigel Thrift, Sarah Whatmore
 Paperback: 160 Pages (2011-03-30)
list price: US$34.00 -- used & new: US$34.00
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Asin: 1412918537
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New developments in life science and information science invite rigorous inquiries into what we mean by - and ascribe to - 'life'. "Artificial Life" provides a summary of the key technical and legal developments and an account of why these developments are so unsettling to established categories like 'human', 'technology', and 'nature'. In five chapters - that discuss spaces of life; theories of life; the industrialization of life; spaces of property; and new imaginaries - "Artificial Life": explains how research in biology and informational technology questions the division between human and animal, human and machine, bodies and data, cells and information; provides an account vitalist and bio-philosophical thinking from Whitehead to Deleuze; and elucidates a new set of ideas and methods focused on complexity and emergence. "Artificial Life" outlines the principal themes with economy and directness; while the focus is on issues of active social concern - like stem cells research - which have stimulated theoretical and methodological developments in the humanities and social sciences. ... Read more

16. Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life
by Sarah Kember
Hardcover: 240 Pages (2003-01-17)
list price: US$120.00 -- used & new: US$96.00
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Asin: 0415240263
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life examines the construction, manipulation and re-definition of life in contemporary technoscientific culture. It takes a critical political view of the concept of life as information, tracing this through thenew biology and the discourse of genomics as well as through the changing discipline of artificial life and its manifestation in art, language, literature, commerce and entertainment. From cloning to computer games, and incorporating an analysis of hardware, software and 'wetware', Sarah Kember extends current understanding by demonstrating the ways in which this relatively marginal field connects with, and connects up global networks of information systems.
Ultimately, this book aims to re-focus concern on the ethics rather than on the 'nature' of life-as-it-could-be. ... Read more

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4-0 out of 5 stars Cyberfeminism for the C21st!
Sarah Kember's Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life follows in the footsteps of Donna Haraway, N. Katherine Hayles and Alison Adams in extending substantial feminist theoretical engagements with the realm of science and technology. Unlike Haraway and Hayles, Kember's focus on artificial life no longer centres the work on human subjectivity per se, but rather broadens the realm of inquiry to life more generally. Moreover, while Alison Adam's Artificial Knowing: Gender and the Thinking Machine (1998) focused mainly on the scientific development and cultural resonances surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), Kember's work takes a similar political project but focuses on artificial life (ALife). The key difference between the two is that AI primarily focuses on electronically replicating a human-like mind, working from the top-down, whereas ALife attempts to simulate evolution in a digital system, starting from the smallest byte-size computational programs, attempting to synthesise 'life' from the bottom-up. Kember's stated aims in her book are clear: 'to trace the development of identities and entities within the global information network encompassing both human and non-human environments, and to offer a pluralised cyberfeminist engagement with artificial life as both a discipline and cultural discourse' (p.vii). The differentiation between the scientific discipline and more popular cultural articulation of ALife ideas is particular important, allowing Kember to make specific and separate analyses of the work of scientists and of ALife as imagined more broadly. However, this separation does not prevent a broad picture of ALife being constructed, and it significantly maps areas of both cultural and scientific intersection and divergence.

In her brief first chapter, Kember outlines two key points which will guide her reading of ALife. Firstly, that while ALife simulations may hold great potential for revealing information about life-as-we-know-it by examining the natural world's operations (weak ALife), ALife research often slips into arguing that the digital experiments actually illustrate life-as-it-could-be or real 'life' (the strong ALife claim). Secondly, Kember argues that in recent years there has been a 'biologisation of computer science' which entails digital and computational simulations being guided mainly by the biological sciences. While past scientific efforts, such as AI design, tended to view the body as a machine - the brain as a computer, heart as a pump, and so forth - ALife design appears to have come full circle. Kember argues further that this instils a 'new biological hegemony' in the computational and technosciences (pp.6-7). Chapter two, 'The meaning of life part I: The new biology' immediately explores Kember's claims, focusing on the well-known work of Richard Dawkins and his thesis on the selfish gene. Kember reads Dawkins as arguing from a perspective of genetic determinism. Moreover, she argues further that the shift in Dawkins' work from genes to memes--seemingly self-driven culturally replicating ideas--is just a slight of hand which attempts to escape the eugenic overtones of genetic determinism, while actually reinscribing those idea en masse. Dawkins' work is highly influential upon ALife designers as their goal is similarly to cause the spontaneous evolution of life from basic originary units (digital genes), and Kember concludes that the sociobiological genetic determinism of Dawkins is intrinsic to many current ALife design projects. The third chapter, 'Artificial Life', looks more specifically at scientific ALife designers and their work. While many of the ALifers that Kember discusses do appear to hold Dawkinsesque views, Kember makes a number of strong points about inconsistencies between such views and the actual operation of ALife simulations. Key among these is the role of the creator: while evolutionary theory may have 'killed God', ALife designers who purport to model evolution necessarily involve the scientist-as-creator setting the original Garden-of-Eden-like parameters, in effect acting as God for their digital subjects. Similarly, Kember charts the more traditional feminist reading of ALife scientists as enacting parthogenic fantasies of masculine reproduction and birth without the need for women or mothers. The chapter concludes with a carefully balanced call for feminist engagement with ALife which is not exclusively about resisting the hegemony of the biological, but works productively with these trends.

Chapter four shares considerable ground with The Video Game Theory Reader as Kember examines contemporary computer games which use ALife theories, such as Maxis Inc's range of Sim games and Creatures which was actually designed by ALife scientist Steve Grand. Kember looks at most of the Sims franchise, but focuses on SimEarth, which is a planetary evolution simulator, and SimLife which emphasises genetics and evolution in more specific ways. Kember concludes that what 'Sim games do most effectively is naturalise genetic and evolutionary determinism in an environmentalist educational scenario and - in the case of SimLife - introduce ALife in to one area of popular culture' (p.91). Steve Grand's Creatures also provided some insights into the tensions between ALife/game designers and the public at large. Kember notes that while Grand's game was designed to emphasize kinship with the artificial life creatures, often the biggest appeal to gameplayers was to create hybrid creatures or to torture existing ones. These observations, Kember concludes, show a lack of kinship with ALife in the public consciousness. Chapter five, 'Network identities' expands the ideas of ALife beyond science and specific games to look at proto-ALife, such as 'Bots', which are tiny software agents spread across the internet for various purposes and which are sometimes self-editing. Kember also analyses Nick Gessler's computational anthropology work and his 'artificial culture' simulations which seek not only to synthesize life, but culture per se as well. Chapter six, 'The meaning of life part 2: Genomics', goes a step further, analysing transgenic organisms and so forth which Kember defines as 'wetware artificial life-forms' (p.147). Cloning (both human and non-human), the human genome project, as well as popular films such as Alien: Resurrection and Gattaca are all analysed as part of the broader cultural and genomic imaginary which is, in part, informed by ALife discourses. Kember is careful in these last two chapters to emphasise the importance of dialogue between feminism and ALife (and related discourses) rather than make strongly judgemental claims.

The final two chapters attempt to bridge the so-called Science Wars, in which humanities and literary writing was (sometimes rightly) accused of engaging with scientific writing without taking the time to understand the scientific concepts. Kember argues strongly for a cyberfeminist engagement with ALife discourses and technoscience in general which keeps dialogue open and ethics firmly in sight. Kember concludes that it is at times necessary to escape the nature versus culture debates which have characterised the Science Wars, and which much feminist writing has relied upon, in favour of a 'bioethics of posthuman identity within alife discourse which cyberfeminism might productively contribute to' (p.216). While Kember's conclusions are certainly pragmatic in terms of keeping dialogue open, they may be a bit open ended for some readers. However, there can be no doubting the significant contribution Kember has made in articulating the important dialogue between feminism and artificial life discourses. Moreover, Kember's work has considerable insights beyond its immediate target audience, making this an important text for those involved in research into posthumanism, cybercultural studies, feminist theory and ideas of subjectivity as they are rearticulated in the early twenty-first century. ... Read more

17. Fourth European Conference on Artificial Life (Complex Adaptive Systems)
Paperback: 600 Pages (1997-07-11)
list price: US$75.00 -- used & new: US$8.29
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Asin: 0262581574
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Researchers in artificial life attempt to use the physical representation of lifelike phenomena to understand the organizational principles underlying the dynamics of living systems. The goal of the 1997 European Conference on Artificial Life is to provoke new understandings of the relationships between the natural and the artificial. Topics include self-organization, the origins of life, natural selection, evolutionary computation, neural networks, communication, artificial worlds, software agents, philosophical issues in artificial life, ethical problems, and learning and development. ... Read more

18. Artificial Life: Explorer's Kit (Software Included)
by Ellen Thro
 Paperback: 207 Pages (1993-07)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$6.81
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Asin: 0672303019
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Bringing users to the forefront of the hot, new, fascinating field of artificial life, this exciting new book presents topics in a simple, direct style that allows readers to browse and experiment on their own. Covers the history, state of the art and future directions of artificial life. Disk includes demo programs and artificial life simulations. ... Read more

19. Artificial Life VI: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Artificial Life (Complex Adaptive Systems)
Paperback: 505 Pages (1998-06-18)
list price: US$90.00 -- used & new: US$6.93
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Asin: 0262510995
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The term "artificial life" describes research into synthetic systems that possess some of the essential properties of life. This truly interdisciplinary effort includes biologists, computer scientists, physicists, chemists, geneticists, and others. The field may be viewed as an attempt to understand high-level behavior from low-level rules--for example, how the simple interactions between ants and their environment lead to complex trail-following behavior. An understanding of such relationships in particular systems can suggest novel solutions to complex real-world problems such as disease prevention, stock-market prediction, and data-mining on the Internet.Since their inception in 1987, the Artificial Life meetings have grown from small workshops to truly international conferences, reflecting the fields increasing appeal to researchers in all areas of science. ... Read more

20. Artificial Life V: Proceedings of the Fifth International Workshop on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (Complex Adaptive Systems)
Paperback: 525 Pages (1997-07-01)
list price: US$90.00 -- used & new: US$39.93
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Asin: 0262621118
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May 16-18, 1996 · Nara, JapanDespite all the successes in computer engineering, adaptive computation, bottom-up AI, and robotics, Artificial Life must not become simply a one-way bridge, borrowing biological principles to enhance our engineering efforts in the construction of life-as-it-could-be. We must ensure that we give back to biology in kind, by developing tools and methods that will be of real value in the effort to understand life-as-it-is.Artificial Life V marks a decade since Christopher Langton organized the first workshop on artificial life -- a decade characterized by the exploration of new possibilities and techniques as researchers have sought to understand, through synthetic experiments, the organizing principles underlying the dynamics (usually the nonlinear dynamics) of living systems. In addition to presenting the latest work in the field, Artificial Life V includes a retrospective and prospective look at both artificial and natural life with the aim of refining the methods and approaches discovered so far into viable, practical tools for the pursuit of science and engineering goals.Complex Adaptive Systems series ... Read more

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