Creation: Life and How to Make It Hardcover – 9 Nov 2000
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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
The first major popular book on artificial life by one of its leading practitioners.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The basic premise is that at an atomic level matter is always changing and so the secret sauce of living systems is therefore the recipe, blueprint, whatever you want to call it,... Read morePublished on 31 Aug. 2009 by M. Henderson
Even though I never got around to playing the game I always had an interest in it and what it could do. Read morePublished on 25 July 2003 by Neil
"...to 'begin' or not to copulate..."
"What is a soul?"
If these types of thought run through your mind then your frequency is
probably in sync... Read more
i just finished this book and while the concepts are complex to understand i believe a few re-reads will help it sink in (the author has had his whole life to come to terms with... Read morePublished on 4 July 2001
The first 200 pages of this book can be skimmed over at high speed. They are really neither very original, nor very interesting. Read morePublished on 12 Jun. 2001
I really enjoyed this book. The first part explains and justifies, to my mind completely convincingly, that artificial minds should be possible in a computer and sets out a... Read morePublished on 10 April 2001 by R. Whitehead
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