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Mark Ward

Virtual Organisms

The development of computers has naturally led to us comparing them with life, and attempting to model living things with computer programs. Cellular automata, such as John Conway's 'Game of Life', are an obvious example. In Virtual Organisms Mark Ward takes a look at this subject of Artificial Life - or ALife as it has become known. He describes current work in the area, such as genetic algorithms and the modelling of ecological systems. He also shows how other researchers have tried to avoid computers, and have created impressively lifelike robots using just simple electronics.

Its a few years since the book was published and its a fast moving subject, but this isn't as much of a problem as one might expect. At the start of the book Ward suggests that the book will be about ideas for the future of ALife, rather than summarising work done in the subject, but it turned out to be more about the latter. Ward is a journalist rather than an expert in the subject, and sometimes I got the feeling that he was putting together a book from what he had picked up at various ALife conferences over the years. But the book is easy to read and has plenty of interesting material.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews