The Ontological Basis of Strong Artificial Life

Artificial Life 3:29-39 (1997)
This article concerns the claim that it is possible to create living organisms,<span class='Hi'></span> not merely models that represent organisms,<span class='Hi'></span> simply by programming computers <span class='Hi'></span>("virtual"<span class='Hi'></span> strong alife)<span class='Hi'></span>. I ask what sort of things these computer-generated organisms are supposed to be <span class='Hi'></span>(where are they,<span class='Hi'></span> and what are they made of?<span class='Hi'></span>).<span class='Hi'></span> I consider four possible answers to this question:<span class='Hi'></span> (a)<span class='Hi'></span> The organisms are abstract complexes of pure information;<span class='Hi'></span> (b)<span class='Hi'></span> they are material objects made of bits of computer hardware;<span class='Hi'></span> (c)<span class='Hi'></span> they are physical processes going on inside the computer;<span class='Hi'></span> and <span class='Hi'></span>(d)<span class='Hi'></span> they are denizens of an entire artificial world,<span class='Hi'></span> different from our own,<span class='Hi'></span> that the programmer creates.<span class='Hi'></span> I argue that <span class='Hi'></span>(a)<span class='Hi'></span> could not be right,<span class='Hi'></span> that <span class='Hi'></span>(c)<span class='Hi'></span> collapses into <span class='Hi'></span>(b)<span class='Hi'></span>, and that <span class='Hi'></span>(d)<span class='Hi'></span> would make strong alife either absurd or uninteresting.<span class='Hi'></span> Thus,<span class='Hi'></span> "virtual"<span class='Hi'></span> strong alife amounts to the claim that,<span class='Hi'></span> by programming a computer,<span class='Hi'></span> one can literally bring bits of its hardware to life.
Keywords life  artificial life  ontology
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