Steven Rooke lives in a 1914 railroad boxcar 35 feet below sea level, 8 miles from Thermal, California. Fortunately the ocean still lives 150 miles away. He spent seven years working as a geologist, turning quickly to computer programming to save wear and tear on the body. Next came seven years as Senior Systems Programmer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, Arizona. He is now nearing the end of his seventh year writing A-life software and genetically evolving images for print and video with his boxcar roommate, an SGI R10000 workstation. If there is a common theme throughout his careening career, it is a driving curiousity about Origins.
"Symbiogenetic A-life, or 'What is an individual?'"
It is high time the extended A-life community took note of the Eukaryotic Transition 2 billion years ago, when formerly independent bacteria merged symbiogenetically to form the progenitors of four of the five Kingdoms of life, thus enabling our single-celled ancestors to survive the deadly Oxygen Holocaust. We already have precedent for the advent of new technology in biological evolution solving toxic pollution problems.
How do A-life programmers sharpen our definition of the "individual" as an entity subject to natural selection? Current systems have a built-in straitjacket that would prevent the emergence of higher-order entities like the eukaryotic cell. Could hierarchical selection help, wherein assigning fitness to a replicating individual involves peering around at higher organizational levels, tracking interactions with other individuals?
But wait! This isn't a mainstream A-life conference about bottom-up emergence of symbiosis; we can't dawdle around the rest of our lives awaiting infinite supercomputer resources. We want to engineer spontaneous emergence now, dammit! What can we learn from Dawkins' extended phenotype, Margulis' symbiogenesis, Maynard Smith's evolutionary transitions? Should designers of artificial life software be open to Margulis' "Gaia-autopoietic" thinking alongside proven strict neo-Darwinian models?My image evolution system is described and illustrated on http://www.concentric.net/~Srooke/.
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