artificial life

GC: n

CT: Our third and final viewpoint on artificial life reveals some deep connections between biology and computer science, and again relies on some key insights from Alan Turing. Research in molecular biology has revealed extraordinarily complex networks of biochemical interactions in living cells. As the details of such networks have been identified, it has become increasingly clear that much of the functionality of these networks is concerned with information processing. It is not just computer scientists who hold this view. In his recent talk at the Royal Institution, Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Prize winner and President of the Royal Society, spoke of the Great Ideas of Biology, which he listed as the cell, the gene, evolution by natural selection, and biology viewed as complex chemistry. He then suggested that the next great idea of biology would be the recognition that life is “a system which manages information”.

S: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/cmbishop/downloads/Bishop-Artificial-Life.pdf(external link), p. 10 (last access: 10 December 2014)

N: 1. artificial (adj): late 14c., in the phrase artificial day "part of the day from sunrise to sunset," from Old French artificial, from Latin artificialis "of or belonging to art," from artificium (see artifice). Meaning "made by man" (opposite of natural) is from early 15c. Applied to things that are not natural, whether real (artificial light) or not (artificial flowers). Artificial insemination dates from 1897. Artificial intelligence "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines" was coined in 1956.
life (n): Old English life (dative lif) "existence, lifetime, way of life, condition of being a living thing, opposite of death," from Proto-Germanic *libam (cognates: Old Norse lif "life, body," Dutch lijf "body," Old High German lib "life," German Leib "body"), properly "continuance, perseverance," from PIE leip- "to remain, persevere, continue; stick, adhere").
2. Activity which resembles life but is conducted by robots and other similar mechanisms.
3. Artificial life got its start with John von Newmann. In the 1940s he devised hypothetical mathematical entities called cellular automata with which he tried to construct machines that could reproduce themselves. The field has become a strange and exciting new frontier of modern science. Researchers are working with "weak a-life" - they simulate aspects of life in order to understand life that exists on earth and possibly elsewhere. Scientists working with "strong a-life "look toward the development of actual living organisms whose essence is information (not matter). They will live as robots or in computers.
4. Cultural Interrelation: We can mention the books Artificial Life (1993) by Stephen Levy, Darwin Among the Machines (1998) by George B. Dyson, Narratives from the Final Frontier (2000) by Volker Gentejohann and The Computers of Star Trek (2001) by Lois Gresh and Robert E. Weinberg.

S: 1. OED - http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=artificial&searchmode=none;(external link) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=life&searchmode=none(external link) (last access: 1 October 2014). 2 & 3. TERMIUMPLUS. 4. http://faculty.law.lsu.edu/ccorcos/lawhum/artificiallife.htm(external link) (last access: 31 March 2015).

SYN: A-life, a-life, A life, alife.


CR: artificial intelligence, automatic control engineering, computer science, robotics.


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