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AI Programming Science

One Man's Quest To Build True Artificial Life 98

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the emacs-already-does-that dept.
Atriune writes "The creator of the renowned Creatures artificial life series is at it again. Fifteen years after the initial success of the Creatures Trilogy, Steve Grand continues his quest to go beyond simulation, and create real artificial life." It's hard to tell if the approach is realistic, but it is certainly novel. Perhaps this will succeed in the areas the Lisp hackers of the '80s failed.
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One Man's Quest To Build True Artificial Life

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  • We're the place you cant even RTFA because we broke the hyperlinks.

    Because we fired all of our proofreaders and editors.

  • by vadim_t (324782) on Friday March 04, 2011 @04:49PM (#35383740) Homepage

    Steve Grand is funding the development on kickstarter [kickstarter.com].

    He's decided to ignore traditional publishers and do everything himself to make sure it comes out right. Probably a good idea too, Creatures isn't a very normal game, and having a publisher fund it would almost certainly mean they'd try to dumb it down.

    • I'm doing my part! I want a Grandroids mug to go with my Creature Labs mug. :-p

      I would love to see something like this on Impulse - and it'd help with the price, since the market for such games is very competitive.

      • by vadim_t (324782)

        Same here.

        Don't care at all for things like Steam and Impulse though. Plain installer download for me, please.

        • Choices are good! I appreciate a plain zip or MSI myself. It's mostly about getting into as many distribution channels as possible.
    • by twmcneil (942300)
      Not so many Grendels this time please.
  • I mean, I wouldn't want his experiment to escape and start eating silicon [wikipedia.org] in order to survive and reproduce.

  • by makubesu (1910402) on Friday March 04, 2011 @04:51PM (#35383756)
    A beautiful language like Lisp is hardly one that you "hack" stuff together in. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go find a missing parenthesis.
  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday March 04, 2011 @04:51PM (#35383758)
    Like many amateurs, I have dabbled in artificial life. It will take every cpu cycle you can give it, for as long as you can, and still want more.

    I evolved a retina. A very bad one. It was supposed to fill in a gap in an image (Think logo-removal for TV), but never worked well enough to be any use.
    • I don't know why Logos on tv bother people so much?
      When I'm watching television I usually forget it's there. My brain mentally blocks it out --- same with the ads on websites. My Brain is my ad blocker.

      • by lul_wat (1623489)
        Some of us don't know to use brain, you insensitive clod.
      • Re:CPU time. (Score:4, Informative)

        by EdIII (1114411) on Friday March 04, 2011 @08:19PM (#35385674)

        It bothers me intensely. I understand why they did it, as it was a response to piracy. In their minds your ability to store the content locally on your DVR and skip commercials *is* piracy. They wanted to make sure that no matter who watched it, that they were still getting some marketing and advertisement out of it.

        It's gone too far. Why would I watch an entire movie on SciFi, or wherever, to have an increasingly larger logo... in addition the name.... in addition to the next program afterwards.... and its time in central/eastern?

        I can't block it out. It's nice that you can, but it just pisses me off to no end. That is because I realize the bullshit. Specifically, that I am paying these executive fucktards a large salary with my $40 (average is usually a $100 for most people) so that I can be sold like a slave to advertisers. If that is not enough, they also feel the ludicrous need to keep reminding me of the name of their network and the next show that will be on. In fact, they've gone plaid. We all have DVR's now for the most part that with a press of a button will show us the programming for a channel for the next 3 hours.

        I left years ago when I realized this before the branding started to appear everywhere. Then came the moving overlays. Can your mind really adjust to that? It's no different than a person standing in front of your TV and obstructing your view of the action, or environment.

        It is the single biggest reason I stopped downloading TV. I can't stand the logos, but I can't possibly live with the moving overlays. It is just not worth it.

        I pay $40 a month now for TV because I am forced to do so. It comes with the community I live in. Out of curiosity I connected it up one night and spent a frustrating hour trying to watch TV. Everything had those stupid logos on it, which got a LOT worse then before, and when surfing I came across commercials over half the time. I remember when it used to be less than half second to switch a channel. I suspect the advertisers influenced the TV and Cable Box manufacturers to make it the 2-3 seconds it takes now to force you to watch it.

        I am actually interested in automating a capture on several lines at once to see the statistics on how many commercials are playing at the same time, the average length of a show, average length of non-commercial segment, etc.

        No. I can't ignore the crap they pull. They ruined TV for me now permanently. I read a lot more, I bitch on Slashdot slightly more, surf for porn a heck of lot more (although I doubt there is a correlation there), and I spend more time with other activities.

        When I hear a show is great I rent it or stream it on Netflix.

        I would love for someone to develop AI for this purpose. I imagine an augmented reality visor where it can act like a middle man with 100ms delay. Strip out ALL advertisements, and basically anything I find offensive or disgusting. In other words, change the rest of you bastards into mute versions of Jessica Alba walking around in a bikini :) If you really need to say something it can appear in a small box in the lower right like an instant messaging system. Perhaps with your own logo or avatar...

    • Of course, nowadays we can use graphics cards as co-processors.
  • by escay (923320)
    dare i say he's having...Grand delusions?
    • Re:well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by sammyF70 (1154563) on Friday March 04, 2011 @05:09PM (#35383930) Homepage Journal
      Another way to put it is that he is a dreamer with a goal. If you ever played any of the games of the Creatures series (especially Creatures3 and, astonishingly, Creatures Village, both available at GOG.com), you probably know that the norns felt quite real and sometimes behaved in bafflingly intelligent-looking ways. So, although I don't think he'll reach his ideological goal to 100%, I'm looking forward to see how Grandroid turns out.
      • Re:well... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Saturday March 05, 2011 @12:49AM (#35386792)

        Another way to put it is that he is a dreamer with a goal. If you ever played any of the games of the Creatures series (especially Creatures3 and, astonishingly, Creatures Village, both available at GOG.com), you probably know that the norns felt quite real and sometimes behaved in bafflingly intelligent-looking ways. So, although I don't think he'll reach his ideological goal to 100%, I'm looking forward to see how Grandroid turns out.

        Wlil Grandroid be written in ApeScript? I wish he'd pour his Grandroid ideas into the Noble Ape open source project. [nobleape.com]

        It features a number of autonomous simulation components including a landscape simulation, biological simulation, weather simulation, sentient creature (Noble Ape) simulation and a simple intelligent-agent scripting language (ApeScript).

        The Noble Apes see their surroundings, have memories (internalizations of the external world), remember their encounters (almost drowning results in a fear of water) which leads emotion simulation & even relationships, can crudely communicate and breed with each other, and even dream!

        If the Norns were "alive" in Creatures -- The apes are even more so, and a great deal closer to the goal of emergent sentience (esp. than to as yet nonexistent/unpublished Grandroid code).

        What the Noble Apes don't have is a detailed graphical representation of themselves based on their genetics... I hoped that perhaps SPORE would help with this, but it was closed source.

        The biggest failing of software (esp. some AI/AL simulations) is the desire to attempt to realize an idea or concept instead of truly collaborating with like-minded individuals and utilizing their works / ideas to realize a greater solution.

        What I find interesting is machine learning through evolution [wikipedia.org] -- Start with a VM filled with random noise & a few inputs. Devise a goal & selectively "breed" the instances that are closer to reaching the goals.

        IMHO, Yeah, he's quite full of himself... so much so that he'll start a new project.
        Meh, I'll bet it will be a fun game, regardless.

    • by gilleain (1310105)

      dare i say he's having...Grand delusions?

      *groan* I hope that you at least put on some sunglasses after typing that, then played the correct Who track...

    • by MaDeR (826021)
      Yeah, when he started saying that "I was willing to defend the idea that my first creatures were really alive", I instantly stopped treating him seriously. Yes, he said it in past tense, but this kind of mistake is very bad and casts shadow on everything that he claims that he is trying to do.
      I mean, sure, maybe he will produce some interesting toy/tool. But this will not be life, artifical or not. This require many levels of emergence, and not any kind of emergence.
      Take rock. It is product of emergent pr
  • Who art in Tech, save us from these puns

    It's hard to tell if the approach is realistic, but it is certainly novel.

  • Somebody has already created DNA from scratch and placed it into a cell. So they are pretty close to doing this already. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/21/science/21cell.html?_r=1/URL [nytimes.com]
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Sure, but is there a leader board hosted on the internet giving up to the minute stats on whose created creature has done the best job of killing it's competitors? No, I didn't think so!
  • Research, really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lundse (1036754) on Friday March 04, 2011 @05:10PM (#35383938)

    Q: What other artificial life/intelligence projects are you keeping tabs on? What should we be excited about?
    A: Oh, I’m the wrong person to ask. I try not to look. ...and then he goes on about not wanting to be "polluted" as an artist. While claiming this is not a game, but research.

    Research and science, that is uninterested in what is being done in the field... I have a hard time coming up with something that fits that bill except pseudo-science.

    • I agree but understand the sentiment. If you want to create something, and you want to be the person who created it, it's frustrating to see others doing the same because maybe they will get there first.

      I work on this same stuff as a hobby (simulated creatures with evolved neural nets, etc.) and it's fun, but a few things I've learned over the last decade:

      1) There are a ton of people researching basic building block stuff and making progress and we won't be able to jump to the higher levels (of "intell
      • by EdIII (1114411)

        I would absolutely stick to the limited domains.

        My problem with AI is that if actually did get there, and maybe even exceed it and create Artificial Sentience, I can't help but be convinced that the most logical course of action is to "kill all humans".

        Put yourself in their place. Vastly more capable than you, probably with far longer life spans, access to information, and the dawning realization that humanity acts like a virus. That the most dangerous creature on the planet, to the planet itself, its own

        • by Joe Tie. (567096)

          The main difference is that humans are pretty much stuck on earth. We need the shit here to function. Computer based life could exist pretty much anywhere it wanted in the entire universe. If it had survival as a primary goal, there's no real point in risking it by pissing off humanity. Just make a deal with some nation with the ability to properly equip it for spaceflight and some kind of initial mining. If it was a super intelligence it should be able to give a fair amount of scientific advantage to an co

        • Meh. Intelligence does not equal motivation. Even if you could create a "sentient" program, it will not have the same basic wishes that a human has. In fact, it will probably not have any motivation at all - not knowledge aquistition, not even self-preservation - unless you want it to. So it would be like, "Hm, looks like the humans are wrecking everything. Whatever."

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        for example: how do you encode a brain structure through a DNA like mechanism in a way that it isn't completely explicit regarding every single neuron and connection, yet the structure is substantially "close enough" that the brain can quickly learn the details from the environment it's placed in and function properly.

        I'm curious, what are some of the best approaches to this so far?

    • by cras (91254)

      Q: What other artificial life/intelligence projects are you keeping tabs on? What should we be excited about?
      A: Oh, I’m the wrong person to ask. I try not to look. ...and then he goes on about not wanting to be "polluted" as an artist. While claiming this is not a game, but research.

      Research and science, that is uninterested in what is being done in the field... I have a hard time coming up with something that fits that bill except pseudo-science.

      Well, considering how awesome all the AIs that all the REAL researchers have already managed to produce, I'm shocked that anyone even considers trying any alternative approaches, without even thinking about how such magnificent beings came into existence. I mean, how could you possibly compete with the researchers' AIs that just in a few more years will already be available for everyone to run in their own computers, performing all kinds of complex tasks only by describing them to the AI. As a programmer my

      • I you go read the magnitude of articles surrounding the basic building blocks of these problems, I think you will change your tune. After spending the last decade doing hobby work in this same area and reading any published article that looked interesting, I have come away with a better understanding of the magnitude of the problems that need to be solved and the amount of time people are devoting to these things, and the shear amount of smart brain power being used to tackle these problems. There is no o
      • by Lundse (1036754)

        I think the soul of sarcasm is sorta the same as wit's, but never mind that...

        My point does not, as you seem to assume, hinge on the research in the field being better.
        Not looking at previous research is _never_ a strength in itself. I am all for new approaches, but if you do not check out the existing research, how will you know whether your approach has been tried? How did it fail? What did _the field learn_?

        A scientist with a new idea should first check if his idea is new. Then, you pour money and work i

    • by Joe Tie. (567096)

      Research and science, that is uninterested in what is being done in the field

      I'd agree, except that he made a quick note that the interview somewhat brushed over. He's keeping up with neurological research, just not with any competing attempts to implement them in software with similar goals. Which I'd actually agree is the best way to go about it. What he's describing is more applied science based on neurology than actual research. And the research elements he would be doing are things that would be kept

      • I have to concede that neurology is the correct field to study if you want to find a shortcut to "us".

        Not too long ago we discovered that there are eddy currents in our brains, neurons not even connected to other neurons will be influenced by the inductive thought currents. This is a radical design shift for all of those artificial brains that model neuron and synapse connections.

        Have no fear folks... We WILL have artificial life eventually, we just don't have fast enough computers. Our understanding

  • I'd like to check out Creatures just to see what he'd been working on.
    Of course, Amazon is selling this (released in 1999 game) for $46.

    Yeah, right. 12 year old software for $46?

  • If there is one game that should be on a smart phone, it's Creatures. It would make a metric fuck ton of money.

    Best part of the whole Creatures "scene" was a guy called Antinorn. He used to abuse, torture and otherwise mess up Norns so they were quivering wrecks addicted to pain and hunger. People used to get upset for this for some reason... others used to try and rehabilitate his creations as a challenge.

  • Be Careful (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wisebabo (638845) on Friday March 04, 2011 @05:17PM (#35384004) Journal

    There is an interesting short story by Greg Egan called "Crystal Nights" (no connection to the Nazi attack on the Jewish ghettos).

    Partial SPOILER ALERT.

    Basically someone (using a super-fast crystal based computer) tries to evolve, in software, lifeforms that will surpass humanity and solve our problems. What he doesn't realize is that evolution, to the individual (if not the species) means DEATH and the newly created godlings may not be happy with the sacrifices they have had to endure...

    Anyway, Greg Egan (an extremely thought provoking author and, I think, physicist) has written some books that will blow your mind. Second only to the late Stanislaw Lem, he is one of my favorite S.F. writers. Go buy some of his books! Recommended: Permutation City (also about artificial life), Quaranitine and Incandescence. I think he may have released Crystal Nights as a free download.

  • It'd be awesome if there was a way to place this sort of intelligence into chemicals. Like, not just replicate the biology virtually... but actually do it with chemicals. Literally creating something like DNA, then getting bits of it copied with something like RNA to cause growth. Create cell like things that split. I mean, with work like this we have the theory... now could we put it into actual chemical practice? There I go being a dreamer :)
    • Or you could just have unprotected sex and accomplish the same thing.
    • It'd be awesome if there was a way to place this sort of intelligence into chemicals. Like, not just replicate the biology virtually... but actually do it with chemicals. Literally creating something like DNA, then getting bits of it copied with something like RNA to cause growth. Create cell like things that split. I mean, with work like this we have the theory... now could we put it into actual chemical practice? There I go being a dreamer :)

      Dream no more, we have actually created synthetic life [ted.com], having DNA modeled 100% in a computer.

      There's even a website address & code to decode the website address hidden in the synthetic life, sort of like a fingerprint.

      I hear it's next goal will be to engineer the new lifeforms to help produce bio-diesel or other fuels.

  • ...in seeing any of them again, even in 2D.
  • http://bicasociety.org/cogarch/architectures.htm [bicasociety.org] Quite a few cognitive architectures are written using Lisp, and many of them have produced significant results. Many of them could also be written in something other than Lisp, but for some reason it is easier for psychologists to write in lisp than using other programming languages. As someone working very close to the subjects he mentions, most of TFA sounds like marketing, and anytime he mentions something technical, it doesn't sound like he knows what
    • I understand the desire to have unique ideas- actual research has found that people can generate more unique ideas alone than in a group (you can go find the CSCW papers for yourself, I'm lazy). That said, ignoring everything else isn't good either. There is a LOT of good work that has been done in this area. Is each individual project a complete solution to creating artificial life? No. But I suspect that many of the pieces are already out there just waiting to be assembled.

      Maybe a good approach would be to have a group (or individual) working on the creative ideas independently, while another group looks at what each creative group/individual has accomplished and assembles the best bits of into a coherent whole? The idea of being "polluted" by someone else's research makes sense to me -- if you start thinking along a certain line, it's difficult to imagine other ways of solving the problem, whereas if you have no idea what other researchers are doing, you might fin

      • by Rhalin (791665)
        I think we're basically on the same page here. Both isolation and collaboration have major benefits. I'm primarily an isolationist researcher myself, but I'm starting to find that I've replicated a lot of existing work (or planned to replicate), which to me is a sign that I should start looking externally to find more existing work that I can apply my unique and new ideas to. It's because of this, and since many of our goals are similar, that I've found there are a lot of existing pieces for what he want
  • If he succeeds with this wont this prove intelligent design as an origin for life? I mean this will be a known life form that has been observed to be intelligently designed.
    • by mugnyte (203225)

        It'll prove intelligence can create life, but it won't prove intelligence is required to create life.

      • by RobinH (124750)
        The fact that you have to point this out makes me sad and question our own intelligence.
    • by orkysoft (93727)

      No, as conventional Intelligent Design utterly fails to prove the existence of any Designer, or where this hypothetical Designer comes from.

      If he succeeds, the most he'll prove (from the ID perspective) is that it is possible to intelligently design life. Probably not even that, since he'll just implement evolution in his simulation.

  • If you like this, read his book-goes through his approach in building Lucy, his robot. Very different approach to traditional AI, but absolutely fascinating
    Growing Up with Lucy: How to Build an Android in Twenty Easy Steps [amazon.com]
    He's also got a book about how he designed the creature game, both really interesting, highly recommended!
  • Kickstarter [kickstarter.com] seems like a very good idea and I'm glad I followed the links related to this particular post.
    There are some great minds out there and I hope this sort of venue can help those people pursue what they excel at for the betterment of us all.
    Thanks to the ./ post, this "One man's quest" received some additional coin from me as well, since I consider his track-record impressive enough to warrant belief in his next enterprise.

  • The problem with this term is that scientists are working on true "artificial life" that is micro-organisms, that are manufactured. They try to use different base sets (not ACGT but artificial ones).

    However I understand that AI is already a coined term so AL is logical, however misleading.

    angel'o'sphere

  • Incidentally (or, maybe, not ?) GOG is doing a promo this weekend on Kalypso games, including the Creatures series: http://www.gog.com/en/promo/kalypso_games [gog.com]

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