Digital Digital Burgess Conference Follow-up:
William Riedel
Conference was held August 29-September 1 1997, Banff Alberta, Canada

Natural Science Connections: Introduction

The scope of the Digital Burgess conference (with its artificial-life, computer science, paleontological, visionary and aesthetic components) was overwhelming for those of us who attended it, and must be even more so for others whose main contact with it is via this web site. Therefore, toward the end of the conference, a number of us agreed to work on a multi-authored document that would focus on aspects of the discussions having a bearing on objective natural science. The aim is to help paleontologists and biologists to recognize benefits that they might eventually derive from work on artificial life and other not-conventionally-biological topics explored in Banff.

The result of that effort is the collection of articles assembled below. Four of them, by Stefan Bengtson, Roy Plotnick, Tim McCormick and Bruce Damer, provide over-views of the conference, and the three others concentrate on specific aspects. Larry Yaeger provides us natural scientists with an insight into the goals and operating philosophy of artificial-lifers. Paul Marrow explains how research in the natural sciences and artificial life can help solve problems in the telecommunications industry, and perhaps vice versa. And Richard Gordon discusses differentiation trees in the development of organisms.

Some other conference attendees whose work bears on the natural sciences have web sites:

Demetri also has a couple of papers describing his work on locomotion, perception and learning in artificial fishes:

  • Terzopoulos, D., Tu, X., and Grzeszczuk, R. 1995. Artificial fishes: autonomous locomotion, perception, behavior, and learning in a simulated physical world. Artificial Life 1: 327-351
  • Terzopoulos, D., Rabie, T., and Grzeszczuk, R. 1996? Perception and learning in artificial animals. Artificial Life V (Proc. Fifth Inter. Conf. on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems, Nara, Japan, May, 1996): 8 pp.


One of the outcomes of the Digital Burgess conference was a substantial exchange of information, techniques and viewpoints between paleontologists and the other disciplines represented there - software simulators of organisms, ecosystems and organic evolution, information scientists, artists, visionaries ..... The benefits of this interchange could extend also to other areas of natural science in addition to paleontology, such as ecology, ethology, and so on. Therefore I write below of interaction with the natural sciences as a whole, rather than with paleontology alone.

At the Banff meeting, I expressed my intention to put together a multi-authored electronic document showcasing the applicability, to the natural sciences, of the wide spectrum of techniques and viewpoints demonstrated there. Bruce Damer has offered to find a place for this document on the Biota website.

I see this electronic document consisting of a brief introduction that I will write, followed by contributions from others describing the applicability of their procedures to the conventional fields of natural science. These individual contributions will have their authorship identified, and will consist of one or several paragraphs of text explaining how the procedure or viewpoint relates to conventional natural sciences, plus links to pertinent websites and e-mail addresses.

Contributions will be welcomed, not only from any or all participants at the Banff meeting, but also from anyone reached by this listserver. My goal is to build a broad bridge from people working in Digital-Burgess-type fields, toward workers in the natural sciences who might benefit from a adopting procedures and viewpoints with which they are not yet familiar. And benefits will surely flow in the other direction as well.

With a little effort from a lot of people, we can concretely advance the cross-fertilization that began in Banff.

by Bill Riedel

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
La Jolla, CA 92093-0220

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