Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Philosophy of Artificial Life

Towards Computationalism: Philosophy of Artificial Life
Li Jianhui
(Department of Philosophy, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)

The computational revolution in the 20th century has produced a revolution in methodology in which computer simulations are performed as experiments. One outcome of this methodological revolution is the birth of the new frontier science, Artificial Life (Alife). Alife tries to use computers to create entities which exhibit characteristics of life in the computer or in the real world, and from the perspective of computation, it views life as a special algorithm. In January of 2004, China Book Press published my new book: Towards Computationalism: An Introduction to Philosophy of Artificial Life. This is the first book that systematically explores the philosophy of Artificial Life. Now I summarize the main contents and points of this book.

Because of the uniqueness and novelty of the goals, methods, and conceptualization of the Artificial Life, not only are many scientists attracted to do research in this area, but, in addition, many philosophers are attracted by the goal of generalizing new philosophical ideas from its concepts and theories. In Chapter One of this book, the challenges presented by Artificial Life to philosophy are illustrated.

The ideas of Alife can be traced to John von Neumann. Von Neumann proved that the logic of self-reproduction can be abstracted from life itself. After von Neumann, John Conway proved that the cellular automaton is equivalent to a Turing machine; Stephen Wolfram found that there are four kinds of cellular automatons; Chris Langton realized that the rule space of cellular automata closely relates to phase transition and computation: cellular automata which are at the edge of chaos can support complicated computation. Langton herein germinated the ideas of Alife: if we can create the conditions on the edge of chaos in some kinds of media, then we might create life in them. Chapter Two of this book mainly discusses the logic of life and the relation of life, information, and computation, elucidating the theoretical foundation of artificial life.

Chapter Three explores the constructive methodology of artificial life. Differing from a traditional top-down analytical and centralized controlling methodology, the new methodology of artificial life research is bottom-up and synthetic: it tries to simulate individual units instead of one big complex unit; to use local control instead of global control; to let the behavior emerge from the bottom up, instead of being specified from the top down. This kind of individual-based modeling has already become an important conceptual paradigm, not only for Alife, but for other sciences that study complex systems.

There are two types of artificial life: virtual artificial life and realistic artificial life. Virtual artificial life mainly uses software to create artificial life entities in a computer; realistic artificial life uses hardware to create artificial entities in the real world. The main ideas and contents of virtual artificial life and realistic artificial life are analyzed in Chapter Four and Chapter Five, respectively.

There are two claims about artificial life. Strong artificial life believes that Alife entities are or ultimately will be genuine life; while weak artificial life believes that Alife entities are merely simulations of natural life. Two claims are closely related to our definition of life. Chapter Six first probes the definition of life and then theoretically elucidates whether artificial life, especially virtual artificial life, is real life or not, based on the definition. If we understand life from an informational perspective, then we would support strong artificial life.

Chapter Seven discusses the ontological status of artificial life. If we view virtual life or digital life from the perspective of the interior processes of the computer, then their reality is indubitable. The creativity of computers has already made us believe that we can create an independent world, that there is a virtual life world in a computer, and that this virtual life world has the same ontological status as our real world. Gödel's incomplete theorem can't negate the possibility of digital life.

Artificial life views the essence of life as computation. If we enlarge our perspective, we find that there are many contemporary sciences, such as DNA computational theory, artificial intelligence, computational biology, etc., that not only view the essence of life as computation, but also view the essence of intelligence as computation. We can go even further to say that the whole world is constructed by algorithmic rules, and in some sense, the universe can be seen as a huge computational system.

Key Words: Life, Artificial Life, View of Life, Philosophy, Computation, Computationalism

Jianhui, Li. 2004. Towards Computationalism: Philosophy of Artificial Life. Beijing: China Book Press. Ⅷ+238p. $28, ISBN 7-5068-1175-8

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Digital Genesis: The New Science of Artificial Life, New book written by Li Jianhui

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Autolife: A new platform for researching artificial life

Autolife is an artificial life model developed by Zhang Jiang. Every digital artificial life in Autolife can be viewed as an autonomous agent that is modeled by a Finite State Machine. Agents can achieve the open-ended evolution because they are allowed to self-programming universally by mutation and self-reproduction. From Autolife, we can see many emergent phenomena, including individual behaviors, group dynamics and the producing, social parasitism, self-repairing of organization making up with agents. The fruitful metaphors can be used to explain the general emergent principles, including individuals can push themselves to the edge of chaos for improvement of their fitness; different environments can produce different adaptive group behaviors; when the causal closure exists in the system the emergence of organization is unavoidable, and organizations can produce, evolving and dieing by themselves simultaneously.
You can download Autolife from here.
You can also visit author's website to see the results of Autolife.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Digital Genesis: The New Science of Artificial Life

Digital Genesis: The New Science of Artificial Life is published by Science Press in January 2006.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

VIRTUAL ORGANISMS: The Startling World of Artificial Life

VIRTUAL ORGANISMS: The Startling World of Artificial Life MARK WARD. St. Martin's/Dunne, $23.95 (320p) ISBN 0-312-26691-X
Artificial intelligence research has tried to make machines that think; the newer and in many ways more exciting field of artificial life ("ALife") seeks computers and computer-riv en machines that work like-or arguably in some sense are-living things. ALife "encompasses software simulations, robotics, protein electronics and even attempts to re-create the world's first living organisms." This compelling and easy-to-follow volume from the Daily Telegraph (U.K.) tech journalist Ward picks up where Steven Levy's Anti facial Life (1992) left off, surveying recent and classic AIr ife work in all its subfields. Bell Labs researcher Andrew Pargellis's "computer simulation of a primordial soup" produces "working, replicating programs" analogous to the self replicating molecules that colonized the early Earth. John Horton Conway's computerized "Game of Life" produces "CellularAutomata," self perpetuating, evolving patterns that model biological evolution. Cambridge scientist William Walter's 1950s robots "Elmer" and "Elsie," he claims, chased each other like cats and learned tricks like dogs: inspired by them, MIs Rodney Brooks makes robots that can explore the real world, "solving the same problems that animals face." Programs that replicate, mix with other programs and generate somewhat different successors mimic the sexual reproduction that has made possible much of our evolution: these programs, called "agents," may someday run telephone networks and other large electronic systems-with catastrophic consequences if they evolve in ways that are bad for us. Though he includes some scary scenarios, Ward is largely upbeat about the scientific and practical future of ALife in all its manifestations. After his sometimes exciting, always accessible exposition, his satisfied readers may learn to love it, too. (Nov.)

Virtual Socioblogy

Virtual Sociology; Artificial life forms inhabiting virtual worlds are nothing new to fans of computer games like The Sims, but rewiring artificial life for scientific research is a new frontier.

Karen Jones. PC Magazine. New York: Sep 20, 2005.Vol.24, Iss. 16; pg. 21

Artificial life forms inhabiting virtual worlds are nothing new to fans of computer games like The Sims, but rewiring artificial life for scientific research is a new frontier. The New and Emergent Worlds Through Individual, Evolutionary and Social Learning (NEW TIES) project is developing a computer-simulated society, observed by experts, which may eventually benefit information technologies, computing systems, AI, and linguistics.

Backed by a group of European universities, NEW TIES will place 1,000 agents in a simulated world on a 50-node network, with the goal of seeing them evolve a culture. "The project can help us find out about the factors necessary for certain attributes of society to come into being," says Professor Ben Paechter of Scotland's Napier University.

Paechter adds that agents will start with few skills and will need to learn how to acquire food and to communicate. Their language will evolve from scratch, says Dr. Paul Vogt of Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

As to how NEW TIES might benefit real societies, Paechter posits that it makes otherwise impossible experiments possible. For example, the agents could be stripped of key resources in their environment, and the effects of the hardship studied in ways that would be inappropriate in a real society. You can track the virtual culture at .

Monday, September 12, 2005

Artificial Life

Christopher G. Langton

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.

Table of Contents


Editor's Introduction
Artificial Life as a Tool for Biological Inquiry by Charles Taylor and David Jefferson

Cooperation and Community Structure in Artificial Ecosystems by Kristian Lindgren and Mats G. Nordahl

Extended Molecular Evolutionary Biology: Artificial Life Bridging the Gap Between Chemistry and Biology by P. Schuster

Visual Models of Morphogenesis by Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz

The Artificial Life Roots of Artificial Intelligence by Luc Steels

Toward Synthesizing Artificial Neural Networks that Exhibit Cooperative Intelligent Behavior: Some Open Issues in Artificial Life by Michael G. Dyer

Modeling Adaptive Autonomous Agents by Pattie Maes

Chaos as a Source of Complexity and Diversity in Evolution by Kunihiko Kaneko

An Evolutionary Approach to Synthetic Biology: Zen and the Art of Creating Life by Thomas S. Ray

Beyond Digital Naturalism by Walter Fontana, Günter Wagner and Leo W. Buss

Learning About Life by Mitchel Resnick

Book Reviews: Books on Artificial Life and Related Topics by David G. Stork

Computer Viruses as Artificial Life by Eugene H. Spafford

Genetic Algorithms and Artificial Life by Melanie Mitchell and Stephanie Forrest

Artificial Life as Philosophy by Daniel Dennett

Levels of Functional Equivalence in Reverse Bioengineering by Stevan Hamad

Why Do We Need Artificial Life? by Eric W. Bonabeau and Guy Theraulaz


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Call for participation, win €10,000

Art & Artificial Life International Competition


VIDA 8.0 is the seventh edition of this international competition, created to reward excellence in artistic creativity in the field of artificial life.

In previous editions, prizes have been awarded to autonomous entities able to bring us pleasure (Tickle 2.0, Tickle Salon 5.0), engage us in irrational conversations (Head 3.0) or invade our social space (Cour des Miracles 2.0); virtual ecologies that evolve with user participation (Autopoiesis 3.0, Electric Sheep and Remain in Light 4.0), autonomous systems that use the feedback obtained as a mechanism and metaphor for transformation (Appearance machine 3.0, Levántate 5.0) and works highlighting the social side of artificial life (Novus Extinctus 4.0, The Relative Velocity Inscription Device 5.0, The Central City 6.0 and Spore 7.0).

Other themes are addressed in works that have been given honourable mentions: avatars and players in their unique worlds (Iconica 2.0, Life Spacies II and Unconscious Flow 3.0), new interpretations of the roots of artificial life, such as cellular automatons (Sandlines 3.0, Dadatron 5.0) and system feedback or autonomy translated into simple familiar media (Breathe and Autistic-Artistic Machine 4.0, The Responsive Field of Lattice Archipelogics 5.0).

We are looking for art that reflects the panorama of the possible interaction between 'synthetic' and organic life, e.g.

- Autonomous agents that shape and perhaps interpret the data-saturated environment we have in common.
- Portraits of inter-subjectivity or empathy shared between artificial entities and ourselves.
- Intelligent anthropomorphisation of the datasphere and its inhabitants.
- User-defined exploration and interaction designed to reduce fear and stimulate interest in the emerging phenomena which, by definition, are beyond our control.

An international jury will award prizes to the most outstanding projects in electronic art which use techniques such as digital genetics, autonomous robotics, recursive chaotic algorithms, knowbots, computer viruses, virtual ecosystems and avatars.


There is a total of €20,000 in prizes for the three projects selected by the jury:

First prize: €10,000
Second prize: €7,000
Third prize: €3,000

There will also be special mentions for a further seven projects chosen by the jury


Each project must be submitted as a 5-10-minute video with voice-over narration describing the artistic concept and the technological realization of the project presented. The project must be post-September 2003. The jury's decision will be based essentially on the video.

Participants must provide a VHS tape (PAL, NTSC or SECAM format) or DVD for the jury. If your work is awarded a prize or a special mention, you will be asked to provide a video on professional-quality format (Dvcam, Betacam, ¾” U-Matic, MiniDV) for inclusion in The Best of VIDA 8.0 .

The competition is open to participants from all over the world; however, each participant may present only one project.

To register, read the competition rules, complete and sign the application form and submit it together with the tape to Fundación Telefónica before 30 September 2005.

For the video and the VIDA 8.0 website, we also require the following (printed and a copy on CD):

- A short biography (150-200 words) of the author(s).
- A description of the concept inspiring the project.
- Technical information about the project.
- One to three images (slides, photos or high-quality scans on CD or the Internet).
- A transcription of the video narration.

The application form contains the information required on the material that must be supplied to register for the competition.


Incentive for productions in Spain, Portugal and Latin America

The second category of the competition promotes the production of pieces with artificial life and robotics techniques in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. With prize money totalling €20,000, this category includes prizes for one to three proposals meeting the following criteria: relevant concept, proven quality in previous works and evidence of the artist's ability to produce the piece.

The prize is an incentive for production, not a subsidy to cover the total expenses of a project. Consequently, value is placed on the participant's capacity to secure the technical, financial and logistic infrastructure needed to produce the piece.

Each project must be described in a memorandum contain no more than 2,000 words. The text must include details of the concepts and techniques to be used to develop the piece. Diagrams, sketches and any other material that supports the proposal and help the jury understand how the piece works should be furnished.

The competition is open to participants from anywhere in Latin America, Spain or Portugal. Proposals may be sent in Spanish, Portuguese or English. However, each participant may present only one project.

To register, read the competition rules, complete and sign the application form and send it to Fundación Telefónica before 30 September 2005. The application form contains the information required on the material required to register for the competition.


The works submitted will be examined by an international jury that will meet in Madrid from 20 October 2005. The names of the prize-winners and the special mentions will be published on Monday, 24 October during a round table attended by all the members of the jury. The jury's decision will be final.

Members of the jury:

Sally Jane Norman, France/New Zealand (Chairperson)
Chris Csikszentmihalyi, USA
Daniel García Andujar, Spain
Daniel Canogar, Spain
José-Carlos Mariátegui, Peru
Fiona Raby, United Kingdom


For further information about the competition, please write toElena González elena.gonzalezdelafuente@
To confirm whether or not a proposal is appropriate for the competition, please write to:
(in English) Sally Jane Norman
(in Spanish) Daniel Canogar
Elena González de la FuenteVIDA 8.0
Competición Internacional 2005
Fundación Telefónica
Gran Vía, 28. 2ª planta28013 Madrid, Spain
Tel. 34 91 584 2315
Fax: 34 91 531 7106

Monday, August 08, 2005

Conway's Game of Life

Achim Flammenkamp's Game of Life Page - Collection of resources on Conway's Game of Life.
Color Game Of Life Visual Exhibition - Explore Conway's Game Of Life in color on the WWW, by George Maydwell.
Conway's Game of Life Java applet by Alan Hensel - A very fast Java applet that displays a collection of the greatest patterns ever created in Conway's Game of Life.
3D Game of Life - An animated 3D generalization of John Conway's Game of Life written in Java, with examples.
David Ingalls Bell's Homepage - Articles on Conway's Game of Life and related Cellular Automata, free Unix software, archives of Life and other CA patterns.
Dean Hickerson's Game of Life page - A collection of Life patterns designed by the author.
Eric's Treasure Trove of Life - Eric W. Weisstein's home page about Conway's Game of Life and related CA. Tutorial, information, patterns, links, references.
Game of Life in Java - Java applet (with source) by Edwin Martin.
Game of Life in Java - Java applet by David Laurent. Game of Life in colours or Black and White, many shapes
Game of Life: Patterns, Programs, and Links - Information on Conway's Game of Life, including a library of patterns with descriptions, articles on special topics, software, and links. By Paul Callahan.
Games of Life in Colour - Black&White, Rainbow Life, and RGB averaging, by Gunnar Johnsson.
Gliders in Life-like Systems - An online interactive database of rules with gliders, by D. Eppstein.
gLife - An artificial life implementation using GNOME as its front end. Like "Conway's Game of Life' but with a totally different ruleset.
Jason's Conway's Game of Life Page - Patterns and resources for Conway's Game of Life and related Cellular Automata by Jason Summers.
John Conway's Game of LIfe - A simple Java implementation of Conway's classic game of life. Use stock starting points or draw your own.
joseph huang - Parsons MFADT - joseph huang - Parsons MFA Design and Technology portfolio website. includes a flash implentation of conway's game of life.
Life32 - Home page for Life32, The best Conway's Game of Life simulator for 32-bit Windows. By Johan Bontes.
LifeGen for EPOC - A freeware program to simulate John Conway's Game of Life on EPOC handheld devices. By Edward J. Sheldrake.
LifeLab for Macs - Andrew Trevorrow's Macintosh application for exploring John Conway's Game of Life and other 2D cellular automata.
Mark D. Niemiec's Home Page - John Horton Conway's Game of Life, including complete lists and glider syntheses of smaller still-lifes, oscillators, and spaceships.
OpenLife - OpenLife is kind of a Game of Life for the new generation, using latest but tested technologies. However unlike its distant predecessor, OpenLife seeks to be useful.
Probalistic Life - Java applet of Life, with the ability to change the rules producing some very interesting variants on the classic Conway Life.
Stephen Silver's Life Page - Home Page of Life Lexicon. Life patterns, links.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Introduction to Artificial Life and Java Illustration

Artificial Life Resources

Artificial Life Resources

The Hitch-hiker's Guide to Evolutionary Computing.
Nova Genetica
An excellent resource for those interested in studying genetic algorithms.
A collection of resources for those interested in studying artifical life.
ALife Bibliography
"This is a semi-annotated list of on-line publications related to the field of Artificial Life. Over three hundred publications are available through these pages and the number keeps growing."
Artificial Life Games
Links to various artificial life "games", including entertaining, educational and art related sites.
Artificial life Links
A fairly comprehensive list of Artificial Life links, with a simple marking scheme for "must-see" sites.
Artificial Life Online
The Artificial Life Online repository of interesting information at The Santa Fe Institute. Includes background information, software and more.
Artificial Life/Synthetic Biology
Aging Life
A Java applet of Conway's Life with aging.
CALResCo Complexity & Artificial Life
C.O.P.P. Software Home Page (Santa Fe)
Creators of "Creatures" the first popular success of artificial life in the computer games industry. Although similar in many ways to Petz and other recent examples. "Creatures" allows experimentation with breeding.
Floys - An Experiment in Java Artificial Life
The Khepera Contest
Marco's Maddening Artificial Life Page
The Live Alife Page
A collection of interesting web pages demonstrating various types of artificial life programs, including a version of Dawkins' Biomorphs and Conway's Life.
PolyWorld is Larry Yeager's artificial life simulation about which he wrote "Computational Genetics, Physiology, Metabolism, Neural Systems, Learning, Vision, and Behavior or PolyWorld: Life in a New Context" which was presented at Artificial Life II.
Primordial Life 3.1
The Santa Fe Institute
Thomas S. Ray
An Interview with Tom Ray
HIPRL's Department 6
Virtual ALife Library
A collection of resources for those interested in studying artifical life.
Evolutionary Art
Artificial Painter
"The Artificial Painter (AP) software package uses a Genetic Algorithm on Neural Networks. AP evolves pictures to be used in artistic design. The evolution of pictures is based on the user's aesthetic evaluation of a number of pictures shown on the screen."
Computer Artworks Ltd.
Home of William Latham. Computer Artworks Ltd specializes in producing evolutionary art. Together with Stephen Todd, William Latham wrote the book "Evolutionary Art and Computers" which has inspiredseveral people to experiment with evolving "virtual sculptures" (including myself).
Creative Computers
An introduction and set of links to examples of computer programs which can create art and music by themselves.
"Cybertation is an exploration into the nature of life. With Cybertation you can evolve magical forms/creatures by mutating and breeding 3-D models."
Fractal Heart Art
Nick Turner's site discussing various topics including "self-organizing minds", "recreational software designs", "inquiries into the nature of beauty" and "experiments in cybernetic evolution".
"GenBebop is a project directed by Lee Spector that involves the use of genetic programming to produce interactive jazz music-making programs."
Henrik Hautop Lund
One of the researchers in the "Artificial Painter" project above. See his paper on Self-evolving Arts. Now working on applications of evolutionary techniques to robotics at Edinburgh University.
John Mount's International Interactive Genetic Art, International Interactive Genetic Art II & Genetic Movies
Three "classic" interactive web-pages for the evolution of still and moving images in the style of Karl Sims.
Karl Sims
Karl Sims is one of the pioneers of evolutionary art and artificial evolution. His work on the artificial evolution using genetic programming to evolve visually stunning still and moving images won several awards and has been imitated many times.
Organic, Genetic, and Evolutionary Art
An excellent introduction to the various new artforms which have been pioneered by people such as Karl Sims and William Latham.
RndPic is a program that generates random pictures using genetic programming techniques. Similar in many ways to a Sims-style interactive evolution system.
RayTraced Evolution
RayTraced Evolution is an extension to the standard Lindenmayer Systems featured below. It allows the embedding of C-style macros into the production system. It is capable of producing some wonderful virtual sculptures.
"SBART developed by Tatsuo Unemi is a design support tool to create an interesting 2-D CG image based on artificial selection, which was originally proposed as Artificial Evolution by Mr. Karl Sims."
Evolutionary Design
Engineering of Complex Systems
Generic Evolutionary Design...
Genetic Algorithms in Molecular Design
Genetic Algorithms on Proteins
The Interactivator
Investigations of Design using GAs
Genetic Algorithms
Copy Cat by Keith Wiley
Differential Evolution
GAlib: Matthew's Genetic Algorithms Library
Gene Machine
The Genetic Algorithms Archive
Genetic Algorithm Optimisation of Strain Gauge Load Cells
Maze Solver
A Java applet using genetic algorithms to solve mazes.
Nova Genetica
An excellent resource for those interested in studying genetic algorithms.
Optiziming Traffic Flow Using GAs
Proceedings of the 2nd NWGA
Genetic Programming
Genetic Programming
Genetic Programming C++ Class Library
The Genetic Programming Notebook
The Genetic Programming Repository
A port of Adam (?)'s genetic progamming in C++ library to a Java package.
John Koza
Father of Genetic Programming and author of two (heavy!) books on the subject.
RndPic is a program that generates random pictures using genetic programming techniques. Similar in many ways to a Sims-style interactive evolution system.
Teamwork In Genetic Programming
Ant Food Collection Problems involving special types of teamwork.
Lindenmayer Systems
Biological Modeling and Visualization
"FLUX is a procedural animation, created by L-System rules. The rules themselves were evolved interactivly with the computer."
Laurens Lapre's Lparser Links
Laurens Lapre's excellent program LParser was one of the first to export in a format directly usuable for raytracing. Originally only available for MS-DOS, Laurens has now made the source available.
Lindenmayer Systems
A short description of L-Systems, some application of L-Systems and links to other interesting places on the Internet.
Lindenmayer Systems Modeller/Mutator
"The main objective of the project is the mutated generation and 3D graphical modelling of L-system objects."
L-system Applet
LSystems Application
LSystems with Java/VRML 2.0
Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz [alternative]
Co-author of "The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants" with Aristid Lindenmayer.
RayTraced Evolution
RayTraced Evolution is an extension to the standard Lindenmayer Systems. It allows the embedding of C-style macros into the production system. It is capable of producing some wonderful virtual sculptures.
Visual Models of Morphogenesis
"This document has its origins in two survey papers on the development of biological structures. The first appeared in the Proceedings of Graphics Interface '93 and the second in Artificial Life"
Personal Homepages
Steven R Baker
Alex Vulliamy
Richard Dawkins
Larry Gritz
The author of the Blue Moon Rendering Toolkit also conducted a PhD on evolving articulated figure motion using genetic programming. Some examples of the results and copies of his papers are available on-line.
John Koza
William Latham
Former member of the Royal College of Art and IBM Fellow, he developed and published work on evolutionary art with Stephen Todd. Since leaving IBM he has set up his own company. Computer Artworks Ltd, based in London. He continues to work on evolutionary art and it's application to various commercial projects, including the artwork to a recent album by The Shamen and a Windows 95 screen saver, "Organic Art".
Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz [alternative]
Co-author of "The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants" with Aristid Lindenmayer.
Craig W. Reynolds
Creator of "Boids" and researcher at Silicon Graphics.
Karl Sims


LifeLab is a Mac application for exploring John Conway's Game of Life and other cellular automata. CAs were first studied in the mid-1950s by Stanislaw Ulam and John von Neumann. The subject became much more widely known in 1970 when Life was described by Martin Gardner in his Scientific American column.
Life is played on an arbitrary-sized grid of square cells. Each cell has two states: "dead" or "alive". The state of every cell changes from one "generation" to the next according to the states of its 8 nearest neighbors: a dead cell becomes alive (a "birth") if it has exactly 3 live neighbors; a live cell dies out if it has less than 2 or more than 3 live neighbors. The "game" of Life simply involves starting off with a pattern of live cells and watching it evolve.
Even though the rules for Life are completely deterministic, it is impossible to predict whether an arbitrary starting pattern will die out, or start oscillating, or fill the grid. Life and other CAs provide a powerful demonstration of how a very simple system can generate extremely complicated behavior.

System requirements
LifeLab is a Carbonized app that runs natively on OS X. It also runs on OS 8.6/9.x if CarbonLib 1.3 or later is installed.

Main features
Change the rules and examine other forms of Life.
1D rules are also supported (using Wolfram's numbering scheme).
Change the grid topology: plane, torus, Klein bottle, etc.
View/edit/generate patterns at all power-of-two scales from 8 pixels per cell to 64 cells per pixel.
Automatic shifting and grid expansion if a pattern gets too big.
Automatic deletion of isolated gliders.
Automatic detection of oscillators and spaceships.
Search for new oscillators, spaceships, still lifes or methuselahs.
Cut/copy/paste patterns via the clipboard.
Read patterns in a variety of file formats.

Shareware fee and support
LifeLab is shareware, which means you are welcome to try it out before buying it. If you decide to keep it then please pay the shareware fee:
$20 for individuals.
$200 for groups (like a school or university).
You can pay by check, cash or credit card at the secure Kagi Online Order site, or you can use the Register app supplied with LifeLab.
I provide email support to registered users, so send all your comments, queries and suggestions to

Download the latest version
To download the latest version of LifeLab (4.4), click here [272K]. The archive contains the application, a Read Me file, a Register folder, and a Patterns folder with a small collection of interesting patterns.
NOTE: A much larger pattern collection is available to registered users on request.

Why is Life So Interesting?

Life is one of the simplest examples of what is sometimes called "emergent complexity" or "self-organizing systems." This subject area has captured the attention of scientists and mathematicians in diverse fields. It is the study of how elaborate patterns and behaviors can emerge from very simple rules. It helps us understand, for example, how the petals on a rose or the stripes on a zebra can arise from a tissue of living cells growing together. It can even help us understand the diversity of life that has evolved on earth.

In Life, as in nature, we observe many fascinating phenomena. Nature, however, is complicated and we aren't sure of all the rules. The game of Life lets us observe a system where we know all the rules. Just like we can study simple animals (like worms) to discover things about more complex animals (like humans), people can study the game of Life to learn about patterns and behaviors in more complex systems.
The rules described above are all that's needed to discover anything there is to know about Life, and we'll see that this includes a great deal. Unlike most computer games, the rules themselves create the patterns, rather than programmers creating a complex set of game situations.

Game of Life

The Game of Life (or simply Life) is not a game in the conventional sense. There are no players, and no winning or losing. Once the "pieces" are placed in the starting position, the rules determine everything that happens later. Nevertheless, Life is full of surprises! In most cases, it is impossible to look at a starting position (or pattern) and see what will happen in the future. The only way to find out is to follow the rules of the game.
BackgroundLife was invented by the mathematician John Conway in 1970. He choose the rules carefully after trying many other possibilities, some of which caused the cells to die too fast and others which caused too many cells to be born. Life balances these tendencies, making it hard to tell whether a pattern will die out completely, form a stable population, or grow forever.
Life is just one example of a cellular automaton, which is any system in which rules are applied to cells and their neighbors in a regular grid.
There has been much recent interest in cellular automata, a field of mathematical research. Life is one of the simplest cellular automata to have been studied, but many others have been invented, often to simulate systems in the real world.
In addition to the original rules, Life can be played on other kinds of grids with more complex patterns. There are rules for playing on hexagons arranged in a honeycomb pattern, and games where cells can have more than two states (imagine live cells with different colors).
Life is probably the most often programmed computer game in existence. There are many different variations and information on the web. (See the Paul Callahan's home page for more information.)