Artificial lifeArtificial life
, also known as Alife
is the study of life
through the use of human-made analogs of living systems. Computer scientist
Christopher Langton coined the term in the late 1980s
when he held the first "International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems" (otherwise known as Artificial Life I) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory
Artificial life researchers have often been divided into two main groups (although other groupings are possible):
- The strong alife position states that "life is a process which can be abstracted away from any particular medium." (John Von Neumann). Notably the position of Tom Ray who declared that his program Tierra was not simulating life in a computer, but was synthesizing it.
- The weak alife position denies the possibility of generating a "living process" outside of a carbon-based chemical solution. Its researchers try instead to mimic life processes to understand the appearance of single phenomena. The usual way is through an agent based model, which usually gives a minimal possible solution. That is: "we don't know what in nature generates this phenomenon, but could be something as simple as..."
The field is characterized by the extensive use of computer programs
and computer simulations which include evolutionary algorithms (EA), genetic algorithms
(GA), genetic programming
(GP), artificial chemistries (AC), agent based models, and cellular automata
(CA). Of interest has also been the application of co-evolution
to Lindenmayer systems
Artificial life as a field has had a controversial history, some have characterized it as "practical theology" or a "fact-free science".
However, for many, artificial life is a meeting point for people from many other more traditional fields such as linguistics, physics, mathematics, philosophy, computer science and biology in which unusual computational and theoretical approaches that would be controversial within their home discipline can be discussed.
Related fields and subfields
- "What is life?"
- "When can we say that a system, or a subsytem, is alive?"