Search: in
Artificial life
Artificial life in Encyclopedia Encyclopedia
  Tutorials     Encyclopedia     Videos     Books     Software     DVDs  

Artificial life

Artificial life (often abbreviated ALife or A-Life[1]) is a field of study and an associated art form which examine systems related to life, its processes, and its evolution through simulations using computer models, robotics, and biochemistry.[2] The discipline was named by Christopher Langton, an American computer scientist, in 1986.[3] There are three main kinds of alife,[4] named for their approaches: soft,[5] from software; hard,[6] from hardware; and wet, from biochemistry. Artificial life imitates traditional biology by trying to recreate some aspects of biological phenomena.[7] The term "artificial intelligence" is often used to specifically refer to soft alife.[8]

breve]], an artificial life simulator



Artificial life studies the logic of living systems in artificial environments. The goal is to study the phenomena of living systems in order to come to an understanding of the complex information processing that defines such systems.

Also sometimes included in the umbrella term Artificial Life are agent based systems which are used to study the emergent properties of societies of agents.

While life is, by definition, alive, artificial life is generally referred to as being confined to a digital environment and existence.


The modeling philosophy of alife strongly differs from traditional modeling, by studying not only life-as-we-know-it , but also life-as-it-might-be .[9]

In the first approach, a traditional model of a biological system will focus on capturing its most important parameters. In contrast, an alife modeling approach will generally seek to decipher the most simple and general principles underlying life and implement them in a simulation. The simulation then offers the possibility to analyse new, different life-like systems.

Red'ko proposed to generalize this distinction not just to the modeling of life, but to any process. This led to the more general distinction of "processes-as-we-know-them" and "processes-as-they-could-be" [10]

At present, the commonly accepted definition of life does not consider any current alife simulations or softwares to be alive, and they do not constitute part of the evolutionary process of any ecosystem. However, different opinions about artificial life's potential have arisen:

  • The strong alife (cf. Strong AI) position states that "life is a process which can be abstracted away from any particular medium" (John von Neumann). Notably, Tom Ray declared that his program Tierra is not simulating life in a computer but synthesizing it.
  • The weak alife position denies the possibility of generating a "living process" outside of a chemical solution. Its researchers try instead to simulate life processes to understand the underlying mechanics of biological phenomena.


Software-based - "soft"


  • Cellular automata were used in the early days of artificial life, and they are still often used for ease of scalability and parallelization. Alife and cellular automata share a closely tied history.
  • Neural networks are sometimes used to model the brain of an agent. Although traditionally more of an artificial intelligence technique, neural nets can be important for simulating population dynamics of organisms that can learn. The symbiosis between learning and evolution is central to theories about the development of instincts in organisms with higher neurological complexity, as in, for instance, the Baldwin effect.

Notable simulators

This is a list of artificial life/digital organism simulators, organized by the method of creature definition.

Name Driven By Started Ended
Aevol translatable dna 2003 NA
Avida executable dna 1993 NA
breve executable dna 2006 NA
Creatures neural net mid-1990s
Darwinbots executable dna 2003
DigiHive executable dna 2006 2009
EcoSim Fuzzy Cognitive Map 2009 NA
Evolve 4.0 executable dna 1996 2007
Framsticks executable dna 1996 NA
Primordial life executable dna 1996 2003
TechnoSphere modules
Tierra executable dna early 1990s ?
Physis executable dna 2003
Noble Ape neural net 1996 NA
Polyworld neural net
3D Virtual Creature Evolution neural net NA


These contain organisms with a complex DNA language, usually Turing complete. This language is more often in the form of a computer program than actual biological DNA. Assembly derivatives are the most common languages used. Use of cellular automata is common but not required.


Individual modules are added to a creature. These modules modify the creature's behaviors and characteristics either directly, by hard coding into the simulation (leg type A increases speed and metabolism), or indirectly, through the emergent interactions between a creature's modules (leg type A moves up and down with a frequency of X, which interacts with other legs to create motion). Generally these are simulators which emphasize user creation and accessibility over mutation and evolution.


Organisms are generally constructed with pre-defined and fixed behaviors that are controlled by various parameters that mutate. That is, each organism contains a collection of numbers or other finite parameters. Each parameter controls one or several aspects of an organism in a well-defined way.

Neural net based

These simulations have creatures that learn and grow using neural nets or a close derivative. Emphasis is often, although not always, more on learning than on natural selection.

Hardware-based - "hard"

Hardware-based artificial life mainly consist of robots, that is, automatically guided machines, able to do tasks on their own.

Biochemical-based - "wet"

Biochemical-based life is studied in the field of synthetic biology. It involves e.g. the creation of synthetic DNA. The term "wet" is an extension of the term "wetware".

Related subjects

  1. Artificial intelligence has traditionally used a top down approach, while alife generally works from the bottom up.[11]
  2. Artificial chemistry started as a method within the alife community to abstract the processes of chemical reactions.
  3. Evolutionary algorithms are a practical application of the weak alife principle applied to optimization problems. Many optimization algorithms have been crafted which borrow from or closely mirror alife techniques. The primary difference lies in explicitly defining the fitness of an agent by its ability to solve a problem, instead of its ability to find food, reproduce, or avoid death. The following is a list of evolutionary algorithms closely related to and used in alife:
    • Ant colony optimization
    • Evolutionary algorithm
    • Genetic algorithm
    • Genetic programming
    • Swarm intelligence
  4. Evolutionary art uses techniques and methods from artificial life to create new forms of art.
  5. Evolutionary music uses similar techniques, but applied to music instead of visual art.
  6. Abiogenesis and the origin of life sometimes employ alife methodologies as well.



Alife has had a controversial history. John Maynard Smith criticized certain artificial life work in 1994 as "fact-free science".[12] However, the recent publication of artificial life articles in widely read journals such as Science and Nature is evidence that artificial life techniques are becoming more accepted in the mainstream, at least as a method of studying evolution.[13]

See also

  • Applications of artificial intelligence
  • Artificial life organizations
  • Autonomous foraging
  • Bioethics
  • Complex adaptive system
  • Darwin machine

  • Digital morphogenesis
  • Life simulation game
  • List of emerging technologies
  • Mathematical biology
  • Outline of artificial intelligence
  • Player Project

  • Simulated reality
  • Social simulation
  • Soda Constructor
  • Synthetic life
  • Universal Darwinism
  • Webots


External links

ar: bg: ca:Vida artificial de:K nstliches Leben es:Vida artificial eo:Artefarita vivo eu:Bizi artifizial fa: fr:Vie artificielle ko: hr:Umjetni ivot it:Vita artificiale ja: pl:Sztuczne ycie pt:Vida artificial ru: fi:Tekoel m tr:Yapay ya am uk: vi:S s ng nh n t o zh:

Source: Wikipedia | The above article is available under the GNU FDL. | Edit this article

Search for Artificial life in Tutorials
Search for Artificial life in Encyclopedia
Search for Artificial life in Videos
Search for Artificial life in Books
Search for Artificial life in Software
Search for Artificial life in DVDs
Search for Artificial life in Store


Artificial life in Encyclopedia
Artificial_life top Artificial_life

Home - Add TutorGig to Your Site - Disclaimer

©2011-2013 All Rights Reserved. Privacy Statement