Is It Live or Is It Cybernetic?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ALIVE? THE QUESTION MIGHT SEEM best suited to philosophers and physicians, but thanks to a subspecialty of complexity theory known as artificial life, it has become a hot topic among computer jocks.

Artificial life grew out of a type of computer program called a cellular automaton, invented by the Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann, creator of one of the first digital computers in the 1940s. A cellular automaton creates ever changing onscreen patterns by instructing dots to change color based on the colors of neighboring dots. The result is a lively, self- organizing community of...

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