Virtual Organisms : The Startling World of Artificial Life
||Author: Mark Ward|
List Price: $23.95
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Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (14 November, 2000)
Sales Rank: 321,998
Average Customer Rating: 3.17 out of 5
Customer ReviewsRating: 4 out of 5
This book is an interesting survey of progress in using intelligent computer programs like cellular automata to replace older, more rigid programs. Ward attempts to redefine life as the passing of information. He concludes that "the informational basis of life can be abstracted away from the bodies we find it in and lose nothing in the process."
He wants to attribute "life" to both organic and inorganic species, thus his title. He moves by steps to show that the quality of human life is no more special than the life of plants, birds, mammals, insects, algae and fish. Although man has advantages with manipulating symbols, other life forms are superior as receptors of smells (ants and dogs) and gravitational maps (salmon and migrating birds). Ward wants the reader to accept the idea that there is nothing any more special about human life than there is about ant life. In fact many of the Artificial Life programs were inspired by ant behavior. All life becomes a matter of processing information.
Most of the examples given were in the field of telecommunications, network switching. Parallels were drawn between the information passed in DNA replication and that passed by computer programs. The groups he discusses are endeavoring to breed software in an evolutionary manner analogous to breeding animal life. To his thinking a string of computer bits are agents analogous to a string of amino acids in the chromosome of living agents-interesting ideas.
Rating: 4 out of 5
An Excellent Introductory Text
I have to disagree with many of the other reviewers that have commented on this text as I feel that it provides an excellent introduction to the field of Artificial Life. Any reader who picks up a 'penguin' style softback book with a jazzy cover running to no more than a couple of hundred pages and expects entensive algorthmic listings has little or no experience of printed IT literature. Bearing in mind the limitations imposed upon the author by the parameters of this work, this text provides an excellent theoretical perpective of the field free from the restrictive and time consuming portrayal of endless lines of coding that some reviewers would prefer to see. This is not a technical manual and does not purport to be, it is an excellent introductory text designed for those who use computers and are not used by them.
Rating: 2 out of 5
The first entire chapter is just an annoying and unconvincing lecture on evolution that has, from what I can see, nothing to do with the book. The rest seems to be nothing but a history lecture on the people that researched and developed the concepts of digital DNA, cellular automa (Like Conway's game of life) etc... The history was mildly amusing, but without getting very technical, the author lost my intrest soon.
· Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence (Helix Books)
· Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World
· Artificial Life : A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology
· Introduction to Artificial Life