Tuesday 20 March 2018

zero-player game

Conceived in 1970, the Game of Life is a demonstration of iterative arrays from British polymath and professor John Horton Conway. Categorised as a zero-player game, human involvement or volition only takes place at the initial state, seeding the game’s grid universe, which determines how the board evolves over subsequent generations. Each grid square or cell can be either populated or unpopulated—on or off—and interacts with the eight other cells that frame it according to four basic protocols: an isolated cell perishing from underpopulation, a cell with the right amount of neighbours thrives, a cell with too many neighbours dies from overcrowding, and an unpopulated cell with a precise amount of neighbours becomes populated—as if by reproduction.
Cellular automata such as these have practical applications in encryption and security, owing the unpredictable nature of the outcome though the world and conditions can be fully known, but also produces interesting, stable algorithmic organisms that oscillate and creep across the board. Of course these creatures only evolve by analogy, sort of like how artificial intelligence is an approximation of cognition through pattern-recognition and exploitation, but is a useful tool for visualising how computational routines work and a way to comprehend how machines learn and behave in novel and unexpected ways.