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Cyber-biology: Artificial Life on the Internet
Biota.org promotes and assists the engineering of complete, biologically-inspired, synthetic ecosystems and organisms. This involves the creation and deployment of digital tools and environments for simulation, research, and learning about living systems both natural and artificial. These tools range from simple genetic algorithms to full multi-user virtual environments.
Biota.org seeks to nourish a community of interest and to bring the experience of interacting with digital biota to a large audience through the internet.
An Interdisciplinary Approach
The dissemination of interdisciplinary concepts is an important aspect of promoting the field of cyber-biology. To this end, Biota.org welcomes members from all scientific disciplines including evolutionary science, microbiology, medicine, computer science, robotics, nano-technology, palaeontology, social science, and artificial intelligence. Biota also encourages artists, technologists, philosophers, and educationalists to join in and add their input to the developing body of experimental work.
Biota.org holds conferences and workshops on its key themes to specifically encourage a multi-disciplinary approach. These events aim to foster lively debate on methods for the creation of digital biota, as well as looking at the philosophical implications of such work, scenarios for the incorporation of digital biota in virtual worlds, and the examination of the consequences of creating artificial life-forms.
Tasks of Biota.org
1. To sponsor an annual conference on cyber-biology bringing together international experts in relevant fields for presentations, discussions, and the exploration of sites that inspire work in the digital realm with lessons about the evolution of life on Earth.
2. To engage in building and hosting biologically inspired environments to demonstrate concepts such as generating artificial plants from algorithmic seeds, the formation of a digital ecosystem using a token economy with equivalents for energy and resources, the setting up of predator prey relationships within such an ecosystem, and the establishment of multi-user interaction within a virtual world inhabited by digital biota.
3. To incorporate in cyber-biology systems engines for realistic physics, emergent and learned behaviour, and networked mobile code so that the environments are continuously evolving.
4. To define an open-standard and open-source tools, modules, protocols, grammars and methods for the collaborative design and creation of cyber-biological systems.
5. To establish a public repository for these creations which supports their continuous evolution within a networked environment.
Definition of Digital Biota
Digital Biota (also called cyber-biota) are a class of self-replicating autonomous software objects which can be embodied by (benevolent) computer viruses and worms, artificial life programs, cellular automata, genetic algorithms, and general adaptive networks. Once released they live or die by their own decisions as they interact with their environment. They are usually capable of reproduction - if they also have the ability to mutate and be affected by the force of natural selection to some degree then they can evolve.
Digital Biotes are differentiated from semi-autonomous objects which includes artificial intelligences, software agents and bots. These generally have only limited control of their own functionality, operate according to outside goals, and do not reproduce.
Digital biota can be incarnated or given a physical presence by putting them inside a robot. This means that tele-presence devices can at times contain digital biota. Digital organisms do not have a visual appearance other than one they are given so humans can interact with them. This appearance can be a 2D or 3D computer generated image or animation and may be representative of the functions and abilities of the organism.
A Cambrian Explosion on the internet?
We speculate that some time in this new century that Digital Biota may undergo a Cambrian Explosion of diversification within the novel ecosystem of the planet's computer networks. We believe that the richest ecosystems, with the greatest selection pressures, are multi-user virtual worlds.
The probability, form, and implications of the rise of true cyber-biota is the core theme of the Biota.org group. Another way to consider this is: why would nature seek to evolve massless information-based life at this time in the history of the Earth? There are many superb and diverse minds considering these key questions.