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Creation: Life and How to Make It Paperback – 4 Oct 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (4 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753812770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753812778
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Steve Grand OBE is not a man bereft of ambition. His goal in this smart, wide-ranging and intellectually effervescent book is to describe, from the perspective of the computer boffin and Artificial Life expert, what constitutes the conscious essence of existence, what is intelligence, even "how we can make a soul". As Grand himself is responsible for one of the closest available approximations to Artificial Life, the cyberspatial entities called Norns who star in Creatures (the wildly popular computer game he programmed), it is hard to imagine someone better equipped to lead the layman through this challenging philosophical landscape.

The subjects covered are sometimes bewilderingly diverse. From cloud formation to neurochemistry to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Grand devours, digests and regurgitates facts and concepts that help build towards his central premise, that Artificial Intelligence is not just a computer geek's wet-dream-it is with us already, and about to change the way we live. If the material seems occasionally a bit thrown together, and the ideas and notions almost too profuse, the author's animated, chatty, button-holing style ensures the reader never entirely loses the plot. Creation is arguably one of the most important science books of the year; it is certainly one of the most stimulating. --Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The first major popular book on artificial life by one of its leading practitioners.

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3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sue Wilcox on 26 Feb. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Creation - Life and how to make it by Steve Grand
If God wrote a book about the way he put the universe together, why the laws of physics were the way they were, how he came to design humans and all the other life forms on Earth, and why they are interdependent with each other and with the planet it would be a lot like 'Creation - Life and how to make it' by Steve Grand. Steve is a self confessed digital god. And he can prove it: there are over a million lifeforms created by him running around in computers all over the world. They live in their own world of Albia within the computer game 'Creatures'. These are not your run-of-the-mill scripted non-player-characters common in computer games - these little creatures aren't programmed to behave - their behavior emerges from the way they are. They are artificial life or ALife.
This is a lightly written mind-bendingly deep book. As light and refreshing as sparkling wine but with a kick like a mule. When you realize you have been smooth talked into abandoning the last fifty years of AI research and development along with the majority of current thinking on ALife you know the Grand philosophy has gotten into your blood.
'Creation' isn't just about the inhabitants of a game, it's about what makes something exist at all and what it is to be alive and even more important to humans, what is intelligence? what is a conscious mind and can machines have them too? Steve's challenge to himself was to make life within a computer, not just low life but intelligent life. In this book he describes how to do it from first principles. It's not a book about exactly how to write the code instead it's about how to think about simulations and about living organisms so that there's some point to writing the code.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Feb. 2001
Format: Hardcover
The subject matter of this book is the creation of artificial life, a science at the dawn of a new era. In it the author gives a fascinating insight into the design of Creatures, his million selling computer program hailed by many to be a milestone in the development of artificial life.
However, to me some of the most interesting issues raised within it were concerned with the very meaning of life itself. Bringing together evolutionary science, quantum physics, genetics, biology, and computer science Grand examines the Mind, Intelligence, our Conscious and the meaning of Free Will. This brings us to a new point of understanding, not only for the world around us, but also for the virtual worlds we can create.
Written with humor and style, this is truly a thought-provoking book. One, which I'm sure, will make its mark as a work of great importance and be an inspiration to a new breed of thinkers to come.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tom Douglas TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In recent years the volume of popular science books has expanded exponentially. Unfortunately, publishers have lowered their quality thresholds in order to get more books out of the door.
All of which increases the satisfaction when you find one of the gems.
Creation is a book in 2 parts - firstly Steve Grand demolishes your view of the universe, and then he explains how he created 'life' in the computer program Creatures.
Without the early groundwork, the second part would be interesting but in a 'so what?' kind of way. But viewed as a whole, the Creatures program emerges as a very clever approach to artificial life.
In passing the book also looks at other approaches to artificial life, but not in great detail, and as such this book is quite narrow in scope, but not annoyingly so.
Creation makes you look at the world slightly differently and opens up a whole load of new possibilities, which is exactly what popular science books should do.
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By SimpleSimon on 29 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Steve Grand's book was mentioned in Brad Stone's bio of Jeff Bezos, 'the everything store', which lead me to buy it myself a decade after Bezos. It's a very interesting explanation of how persistent, self replicating forms emerge layer by layer, with the rules at each level having little direct relationship with the ones below. It means you can create a complex persistent robust system that works without actually working on the system. Instead you can work on the rules of the layer from which it emerges. Small changes in the layer below produce changes in the one above. Some will be big, dramatic changes. Others will be unnoticeable. It may be hard to work out which will do what. But once you tune it right, the emergent system can be stable and self sustaining. That's what intrigued Bezos in his design of Amazon in the early 2000's, and you can see why. It is leverage.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By KomodoDave on 22 July 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It saddens me to see so many glowing reviews of this book.

My background: 26 year old Computer Science BA/PhD from the University of Oxford, UK. Many-years-long fascination with neural networks, genetic programming etc, and implementation of some of the most modern complex techniques in aforementioned fields.

After reading the recommendations and reviews of this book, I was expecting something revelatory, inspirational and scientific. This book is, sadly, none of these things.

Steve Grand's book contains 15 chapters. 13 of these are self-indulgent narcissistic ramblings with superbly information deficient prose such as:

"We have uncovered the most important law of nature, and it is this: Things that persist, persist. Things that don't, don't."

These chapters combined feel like a botched attempt at Godel Escher Bach stardom, not only falling far short but failing to leave the ground at all.

The remaining 2 chapters are the closest to describing the Creatures implementation that you'll get. However these too are shockingly waffle-rich and information-poor. There's a reason for this: the "chemistry" Steve implements is crude and irrelevant to the creatures' successful mental evolution, and the "unique brain" he describes is nothing more than a simple neural network with a finite number of neurons such that those firing the least over time get disconnected and reconnected in a new, random position. The system he describes is essentially the world's worst implementation of genetic algorithms and genetic programming.

At time of writing, Steve has a video on kickstarter, a "make my project a reality by giving me money" site where you can advertise projects you need money to complete.
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