"Within fifty to a hundred years, a new class of organisms is likely to emerge. These organisms will be artificial in the sense that they will originally be designed by humans. However, they will reproduce, and will evolve into something other than their original form; they will be "alive" under any reasonable definition of the word . . . The advent of artificial life will be the most significant historical event since the emergence of human beings . . . " James Doyne Farmer

Institute for Global Futures 2084 Union St. San Francisco CA 94123
Charles Ostman, Senior Fellow, 510 549 0129
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Evolution into the Next Millennium - Charles Ostman

Aesthetic Exploration in the "Virtual Nature" of Synthetic Environments and Artificial Ecologies

Institute for Global Futures
Asthetic Exploration in the "Virtual Nature" of Synthetic Environments and Artificial Ecologies As a design strategy, I propose that the human species has been deliberately "programmed" to respond to the asthetic content inherent with nature with a depth of emotional engagement which transcends mere "logical" or reasoned responses. This may be in part due to the fact that the human species is the only lifeform which currently possesses the ability cause considerable negative affects to the biosphere's life supporting capacity, if not the potential for rendering the irreversable suppression of the global ecosystems to continue to function in a viable fashion.
Therefore, if such a supposition can be considered plausible, it offers the speculatory potential for ex-perimentation in the arena of utilizing artificial life forms, genetic and mutational operators, and other process dynamics which mimic the physiological and behavioral attributes of living organisms and ecosystems, to generate asthetic content in synthetic environments. Such an investigation transcends the mere enterprise of creating asthetically pleasing visual content, or mimicing the behaviors of "virtual entities" thriving as digital representations of living organisms. This type of development work may provide an insight into how, and perhaps why, certain types of "perceptual media", such as visions of natural settings and the lifeforms which occupy them, or even the sounds of nature in its myriad forms, can have such a universal effect upon humans emanating from virtually any cultural or societal orientation. It is in this context that I have continued to examine the processes inherent with the simulation of natural systems, as an expressive medium, to further examine and study the subtle nuances of the "nature metaphor" replicated in a synthetic environment. The threshold of asthetic engagement, established by interactive contact with such expressive content, could be measured and codified as an "invocation of rapture" quotient, driven be the asthetic potential of visual (and quite possibly audio) content derived from computer generated simulations of living entities, and the synthetic environments they thrive in. Just as there is asthetic content to be discovered and observed in the nature of the "real" world, there is also unlimited potential asthetic content in the "alternative" nature of "virtual worlds". The creation of virtual worlds, or for that matter, virtual ecologies, can encompass any range of spatial or temporal domains, ranging from the inifinitely immense, down to molecular scale of a theoretical "nanoworld". By defining the dynamic rules and operational processes inherent in the alternative nature of a virtual world, this allows access to realms, environments, and experiential domains not possible via any other mechanism. Virtually all forms, textures, and surfaces, such as branching structures of trees, the construction of a leaf or flower, distribution patterns of stars in the core of a galaxy, or pebbles on a beach, even the wispy forms of a cloud, are forms which can be defined and replicated with a series of formulae and procedures that represent the features of those structures. There is a vast potential in creating synthetic environments, which contain the dynamic elements of evolving organisms, procedurally defined terraforms, and other processes which mimic the behaviors of events and processes observed in the nature of the "real" world. In this way, the computer can be utilized as form of "computational camera", to discover the potentially infinte variety of asthetic content residing and flourishing in the nature of the "virtual world". This mechanism enables the exploration of "impossible" virtual worlds, ranging from chaotic events that defy the "ordinary" rules of nature, to the "evolution" of silicon based life forms as they exist in some alien terrain.
This is the real power of the computer as a tool for asthetic discovery and exlporation, to be able to mimmic the forces of nature to create structures, forms, and textures, as a process, as they occur (or don't occur) in nature. Once defined, these processes can be utilized to create complete synthetic environments within the virtual universe which resides in the computer's memory. The structures, forms, and textures created in these synthetic environments are the results of computations based on interactive dynamic processes, which mimic those observed in the nature of the "real world". These can include (but are not necessarily limited to) symetrical and asymetrical growth patterns based on va-rious forms of fractal geometries, gene-tically driven physiologies and evolvable entities, and related biologically definable processes. In some cases, algorithms that mimic the behavior of interactive life-forms are used to evolve "unnatural" structural components. The colors and textures applied to these structures can be evolved in much the same way.
When all of the elements of a given en-vironment are combined and rendered, the result is an artform completely unique, and specific to the computer as a spawning ground for visualization and asthetic exploration. Presentation materials: Dynamic and passive volumetric renderings of various virtual "biobot" component systems, self assembling and self assembling psuedomorphs, quasi-viral components, "nano-swarm" entities, xenomporphic organelle components and species subsytems, organizational "containment" manifolds, and related synthetic environments, as visual and behavioral metaphors of these environments, and their related components.
copyright © 1997, 1998 - About Charles Ostman.

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