ABOUT THIS BOOK
Working mostly alone, almost single-handedly writing 250,000 lines of computer code, Steve Grand produced Creatures®, a revolutionary computer game that allowed players to create living beings complete with brains, genes, and hormonal systems—creatures that would live and breathe and breed in real time on an ordinary desktop computer. Enormously successful, the game inevitably raises the question: What is artificial life? And in this book—a chance for the devoted fan and the simply curious onlooker to see the world from the perspective of an original philosopher-engineer and intellectual maverick—Steve Grand proposes an answer.
From the composition of the brains and bodies of artificial life forms to the philosophical guidelines and computational frameworks that define them, Creation plumbs the practical, social, and ethical aspects and implications of the state of the art. But more than that, the book gives readers access to the insights Grand acquired in writing Creatures—insights that yield a view of the world that is surprisingly antireductionist, antimaterialist, and (to a degree) antimechanistic, a view that sees matter, life, mind, and society as simply different levels of the same thing. Such a hierarchy, Grand suggests, can be mirrored by an equivalent one that exists inside a parallel universe called cyberspace.
Steve Grand is the creator of what I think is the nearest approach to artificial life so far, and his first book, Creation, is as interesting as you would expect. But he illuminates more than just the properties of life; his originality extends to matter itself and the very nature of reality.
-- Richard Dawkins The Guardian
If you’ve heard about A-life but aren’t quite sure what it is or where it’s going, Grand’s book is an excellent place to enter one of the more exciting areas of twenty-first-century science.
-- John L. Casti Nature
When Steve Grand developed his artificial-life computer game Creatures nine years ago, he never dreamed that 1 million people would play it and come to care deeply about the lives of their virtual pets. Creatures allowed players to design these pets, or norns, and observe how they interacted with their environment and with other norns. The norns have computer-simulated hormones and DNA. They eat and breed. They fall in love. According to Grand’s book Creation…‘Creatures was probably the closest thing there has been to a new form of life on this planet in four billion years.’ That’s a pretty startling claim, but as Grand explains in his strangely accessible and consistently surprising book, whether or not you believe it depends on your definition of what’s alive. Grand—now two years into building a 4-month-old robot orangutan named Lucy—argues that our traditional notion of life is just now beginning to change.
-- Suzy Hansen Salon
Grand’s entertaining but highly educational, historical, and intensely philosophical book on artificial life takes readers inside the mind of the creator of one of the more popular games, Creature[s], and its follow-ons. This personal account of the developmental steps of the game and its lifelike artificial creature in a rich cyberworld not only highlights the magic of how the creatures are programmed, but also provides a glimpse into the philosophy, implications, perspectives, and dilemmas in making them. This book is written not only to detail the highly technical aspects of the inner world image of the game, but also to enrich, incite, and promote the general awareness of synthetically generated beings… Delightful to read, easy to understand, and interesting to gamers and nongamers alike.
-- J. Y. Cheung Choice
[Creation is] the latest word on computer intelligence, from the designer of a popular computer game… On the whole, Grand succeeds in providing useful hints to computer-savvy readers without drowning laymen in details of programming. At the same time, he gives an entertaining glimpse of the game itself, with descriptions of ‘Ron,’ the first creature he programmed for the computer game. Smoothly written and thought-provoking—worth a look for anyone curious about computer intelligence.
-- Kirkus Reviews
Blending aspects of philosophy, computer science, artificial intelligence, biology and computer gaming, Grand attempts to define life, discuss the nature of the human soul and demonstrate how it is possible to create entities that demand to be called both living and intelligent. A tall order indeed, and to wonderful effect… [Grand] is at his best describing the problems encountered and the solutions used to animate his virtual universe. While at first glance Grand’s definitions of life might be off-putting, he explains his terms clearly and carefully, guiding the reader comfortably through various levels of discussion… [E]njoyable and thought-provoking.
-- Publishers Weekly
Very occasionally somebody from outside academia comes along and shows us academics how to do something we’ve been working on for years. Steve Grand showed us how to build a universe of evolving creatures, without the prevailing academic biases. This delightful book is a fresh and inspiring account of how to succeed in creating artificial life.
-- Rodney Brooks, Director, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT
A giant leap forward into a new and unknown world…awe-inspiring.
-- Douglas Adams, on the computer game Creatures