Creation: Life and How to Make It

Grand, Steve

Published by Harvard University Press
ISBN 10: 0674006542 / ISBN 13: 9780674006546
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Synopsis: 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.

Review: Though its title brings to mind the hubris of Frankenstein, Steve Grand's Creation: Life and How to Make It is just humble enough to keep its readers hooked. Best known as the developer of the Creatures series of artificial-life software, Grand has quite a following among devotees of playful complexity.

The book ranges from deep ruminations on the nature of life and mind (artificial and biological) to fairly concrete advice for future creators, and his writing is just as elegant and compelling as his software. Sometimes his cleverness gets the best of him, but for the most part, his wordplay is used to serve his ideas, which are thought-provoking even for readers who have no intention of creating life.

Many will be surprised at the strength of Grand's antireductionism, but he makes his case vigorously and may win a few converts to the emergent-phenomena camp. Creation is essential reading for those of us who want to think through the consequences of our actions before we imitate Frankenstein's mistake. --Rob Lightner

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Title: Creation: Life and How to Make It
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Very Good

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Grand, Steve
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