Re: [-empyre-] emergence, embodiment, biology

On 10/11/2004, at 8:21 AM, Paul Brown wrote:

Adrian's original experimental rig only worked in one specific location
if he moved it a few centimetres along the bench it stopped.  He
discovered that there was a power cable embedded in the wall at the
original location and that the evolved circuit was "stealing" the mains
impedance frequency as an input.  This example convinced me of the
importance of embodiment in AI and alife.

And I think this insight also relates to some of what Aliette has posted re. alternatives to Darwinian evolutionary biology. For the record I'm as suspicious of Dawkins-style genocentrism as anyone, and I find approaches such as Margulis' symbiogenesis far more appealing. It's also clear from my resesarch that in a-life in general, and most a-life art, the question of embryogenesis and genetic expression - the "wet" end of genetics - is put in the "too hard" basket.

Thompson's experiments and other embodied approaches (even in software!) are powerful counter-examples. The richness of their approach is actually aesthetically as well as formally evident... I'm thinking here of the work of Annunziato ( and Driessens and Verstappen (; works using cellular automata (like Paul's) also offer an alternative to the "organism = gene = code" fallacy.


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