The Biota community meets at Magdelene College
Cambridge in September 1998 for Digital Biota 2

Mission Statement of
The Digital Biology Project

Karl Sims' Evolving Creatures

Cyberbiology: Artificial Life on the Internet

The mission of is to promote and assist in 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 could range from simple genetic algorithms all the way up to full multi-user virtual environments. will seek to nourish a community of interest and to bring the experience of interacting with digital biota to a large audience through the medium of the Internet. Cyberbiology is Artificial Life made visible through Cyberspace.

Nerve Garden

An Interdisciplinary Approach

The dissemination of interdisciplinary concepts is an important aspect of promoting the field of cyberbiology. To this end welcomes members from all scientific disciplines including evolutionary science, microbiology, medicine, computer science, robotics, nanotechnology, paleontology, 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. holds conferences and workshops on its key themes to specifically encourage a multidisciplinary 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 lifeforms.

Biotian Creatures

The specific concrete tasks of

  1. To sponsor an annual conference on Cyberbiology bringing together international experts in relevant fields for presentations, discussions, and the exploration of paleological 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 aftificial 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 "avatar" embodied multiuser interaction within a virtual world inhabited by digital biota.
  3. To incorporate in Cyberbiological systems engines for realistic physics, emergent and learned behavior, 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 Cyberbiological 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 Cyberbiota) 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 telepresence 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 in Cyberspace?

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, wth the greatest selection pressures, are avatar-inhabited multi-user virtual worlds, which just began to appear online in the mid 1990s. The probability, form, and implications of the rise of true Cyberbiota is the core theme of the 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. Join us in the quest, contact us directly or join our mailing list.

Further Reading

See Chris Langton's What is Artificial Life and Bruce Damer's presentation at DB2 and Avatars book chapter on Biota for further treatments of this speculative vision.

See also the original 1996 vision statement




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