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Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology

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This enthralling book alerts us to nothing less than the existence of new varieties of life. Some of these species can move and eat, see, reproduce, and die. Some behave like birds or ants. One such life form may turn out to be our best weapon in the war against AIDS. What these species have in common is that they exist inside computers, their DNA is digital, and they have This enthralling book alerts us to nothing less than the existence of new varieties of life. Some of these species can move and eat, see, reproduce, and die. Some behave like birds or ants. One such life form may turn out to be our best weapon in the war against AIDS. What these species have in common is that they exist inside computers, their DNA is digital, and they have come into being not through God's agency but through the efforts of a generation of scientists who seek to create life in silico. But even as it introduces us to these brilliant heretics and unravels the intricacies of their work. Artificial Life examines its subject's dizzying philosophical implications: Is a self-replicating computer program any less alive than a flu virus? Are carbon-and-water-based entities merely part of the continuum of living things? And is it possible that one day "a-life" will look back at human beings and dismiss us as an evolutionary way station -- or, worse still, a dead end?


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This enthralling book alerts us to nothing less than the existence of new varieties of life. Some of these species can move and eat, see, reproduce, and die. Some behave like birds or ants. One such life form may turn out to be our best weapon in the war against AIDS. What these species have in common is that they exist inside computers, their DNA is digital, and they have This enthralling book alerts us to nothing less than the existence of new varieties of life. Some of these species can move and eat, see, reproduce, and die. Some behave like birds or ants. One such life form may turn out to be our best weapon in the war against AIDS. What these species have in common is that they exist inside computers, their DNA is digital, and they have come into being not through God's agency but through the efforts of a generation of scientists who seek to create life in silico. But even as it introduces us to these brilliant heretics and unravels the intricacies of their work. Artificial Life examines its subject's dizzying philosophical implications: Is a self-replicating computer program any less alive than a flu virus? Are carbon-and-water-based entities merely part of the continuum of living things? And is it possible that one day "a-life" will look back at human beings and dismiss us as an evolutionary way station -- or, worse still, a dead end?

30 review for Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Ah, the book responsible for a strange little diversion in my life. There I was, a 19 year old first year linguistics student, when I borrowed this book from my mathematics student flatmate. And I thought - "this is really interesting, how can I get into it?" and ended up - someone who hadn't programmed a computer in my life - switching to study artificial intelligence. Which led some years later to working as a programmer in a chaotically run start-up as the dotcom boom petered out... An experi Ah, the book responsible for a strange little diversion in my life. There I was, a 19 year old first year linguistics student, when I borrowed this book from my mathematics student flatmate. And I thought - "this is really interesting, how can I get into it?" and ended up - someone who hadn't programmed a computer in my life - switching to study artificial intelligence. Which led some years later to working as a programmer in a chaotically run start-up as the dotcom boom petered out... An experience I still think I ought to be able to get a book out of somehow. But anyway, enough of that. I don't know how this book has aged, but at the time, I found its overview of the point where computer science and biology met inspiring - and to judge from others I spoke to on that course, I wasn't alone in having my interest sparked by this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ilknur

    Fascinating read but quite outdated

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barrysmyth

    Loved this book when I first read it in the early 90’s as a naive undergrad. It’s discoloured pages called out to me from a bookshelf rarely visited these days, and I’m glad I listened to its call. This book has stayed with me for nearly 30 years and even today it still managed to recreate the excitement and bullish ambition that characterised those formative years in my computer science journey. I loved re-reading about those early tentative but bold experiments in CAs, GAs, auto-catalytic nets Loved this book when I first read it in the early 90’s as a naive undergrad. It’s discoloured pages called out to me from a bookshelf rarely visited these days, and I’m glad I listened to its call. This book has stayed with me for nearly 30 years and even today it still managed to recreate the excitement and bullish ambition that characterised those formative years in my computer science journey. I loved re-reading about those early tentative but bold experiments in CAs, GAs, auto-catalytic nets, L-systems, classifier systems, boids and more. The sheer force of will that these early a-life pioneers possessed is a pleasure to re-live. Maybe its the inevitable nostalgia that goes with lockdown fatigue, but this is one of those books that reminded me of the wide-eyed excitement that computer science still holds for me, even today, almost 40 years after my very first ‘Hello World’. Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Clemens Lode

    While already quite dated, this book gives a great and very exciting introduction into artificial life without going too much into details. It is written for beginners with no background in computer science---although it helps to have a general idea of how computers work. It is written comprehensively with descriptions about the history of the development of the scientific field “artificial life”. The contents of the book range from the history of Artificial Life, to “Game of Life”, swarm behavi While already quite dated, this book gives a great and very exciting introduction into artificial life without going too much into details. It is written for beginners with no background in computer science---although it helps to have a general idea of how computers work. It is written comprehensively with descriptions about the history of the development of the scientific field “artificial life”. The contents of the book range from the history of Artificial Life, to “Game of Life”, swarm behavior, ant colonies, cellular automata, gaming strategies, hill-climbing strategies, VENUS and TIERRA simulators, and 'real' artificial life, i.e. robots. All in all superb 😄

  5. 5 out of 5

    George Higgins

    This was a very interesting read. I am interested in Artificial Intelligence, not a good title since I make little distinction between thinking devices made of proteins and those made of other material, except that the protein made thinking devices have been in development for a long time and are vastly superior in many ways to the others. This book takes complexity seriously, so it is a good read for me. This was a very interesting read. I am interested in Artificial Intelligence, not a good title since I make little distinction between thinking devices made of proteins and those made of other material, except that the protein made thinking devices have been in development for a long time and are vastly superior in many ways to the others. This book takes complexity seriously, so it is a good read for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wael Al-alwani

    I read this book 3 years ago.. it is definitely amongst the best popular-science books I read. As the name implies, this book talks about computer algorithms inspired from biology, cell programming, in silico, and much more interesting stuff.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brent Werness

    This was a very formative book for me on my path to becoming a mathematician. I read it when I was in 4th grade, and it completely boggled my youthful mind. No clue how it holds up now 20 years later, but it gets 5 stars for the memory.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gogs

    I read this as it was suggested as a good introduction to Artificial Intelligence, however whilst there is elements of AI mentioned it primarily focuses, as the title suggests, on Life. Nevertheless, a good read albeit at times a hard slog for those like me that are not overly scientific

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim Robinson

    I didn't exactly read this book, but I did dip into it and it was very interesting. I didn't exactly read this book, but I did dip into it and it was very interesting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A fun, imagination-stirring book I read back in my comp sci days.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hank

    Really two-and-a-half stars. A light-weight overview of efforts to build 'reproducing' computer programs. The author admits even any-type behavior will not be possible for years. Really two-and-a-half stars. A light-weight overview of efforts to build 'reproducing' computer programs. The author admits even any-type behavior will not be possible for years.

  12. 5 out of 5

    K. P.

    A fantastic book. Levy's exposition is very clear, and his storytelling is intriguing. I couldn't put it down. A fantastic book. Levy's exposition is very clear, and his storytelling is intriguing. I couldn't put it down.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris Feldman

    Allegedly one of Oshii's inspirations for the Ghost In The Shell series. Allegedly one of Oshii's inspirations for the Ghost In The Shell series.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Fascinating book about people trying to create "intelligence" in software. Fascinating book about people trying to create "intelligence" in software.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Facedeer

    A bit dated in light of recent advances, the book is 20 years old now, but still a nice summary of ideas in the field.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Wilson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike Rocke

  18. 5 out of 5

    Otto Hahaa

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hummingbob

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tinus Nijmeijers

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Langeberg

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jefferson Burson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amir Ali

  24. 4 out of 5

    Martin Elster

  25. 4 out of 5

    Udi h Bauman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Briefman

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rob

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  30. 5 out of 5

    Russ Olsen

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