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Natural Evolution in an Artificial Medium

Until recently, life has been known as a state of matter, particularly combinations of the elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and smaller quantities of many others. However, recent work in the field of Artificial Life has shown that the natural evolutionary process can proceed with great efficacy in other media, such as the informational medium of the digital computer [1,3,7,15,16,20,24,29,43,44,51,53,54,68,69,71,72,73,74,77,78,81,89,91]

These new natural evolutions, in artificial media, are beginning to explore the possibilities inherent in the ``physics and chemistry'' of those media. They are organizing themselves and constructing self-generating complex systems. While these new living systems are still so young that they remain in their primordial state, it appears that they have embarked on the same kind of journey taken by life on earth, and presumably have the potential to evolve levels of complexity that could lead to sentient and eventually intelligent beings.

If natural evolution in artificial media leads to sentient or intelligent beings, they will likely be so alien that they will be difficult to recognize. The sentient properties of plants are so radically different from those of animals, that they are generally unrecognized or denied by humans, and plants are merely in another kingdom of the one great tree of organic life on earth [70,75,88]. Synthetic organisms evolving in other media such as the digital computer, are not only not a part of the same phylogeny, but they are not even of the same physics. Organic life is based on conventional material physics, whereas digital life exists in a logical, not material, informational universe. Digital intelligence will likely be vastly different from human intelligence; forget the Turing test.

Thomas S.Ray
Thu Aug 3 13:59:36 JST 1995