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Electronic Life Makes Evolving Art

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the would-make-a-good-new-order-video dept.

Software 54

brilanon writes "Good news! On Sept 4, critterdrug, the a-life lab for the twenty-teens, was updated to make generating a species almost trivial. A new video shows semi-random artificial animals gaining neurons and synapses as they compete to draw a gradient on an animated shared canvas which constitutes 1024 frames spread through time. The canvas is a 10-megabyte digital background for the lossy neural nets that populate the world. What you get are cellular automata run by psychic neural nets that are bound by the rules of a survival contest with physics. Features implementations of telepathy, Rupert Sheldrake's morphic fields and five types of drugs. The key assignments have changed since critterding; check the changelog on the web page for the new ones. Happy hacking!"

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54 comments

Five kinds of drugs, you say? (5, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999008)

The summary probably makes more sense when you're high.

Re:Five kinds of drugs, you say? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999014)

I can assure you sir, it does not.

Re:Five kinds of drugs, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999362)

No... I'm just confused now

Re:Five kinds of drugs, you say? (4, Funny)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999546)

"The summary probably makes more sense when you're high."

Well, not really. Hell, the program itself doesn't even make sense sober or stoned. I think GIMP has a more usable UI.

What is it? (5, Insightful)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999030)

It's critterdrug.

Yes, but what is is?

It's a fork of critterding.

Yes, but what is it?

It's an a-life lab for the twenty-teens.

Yes, but what is it?

It's semi-random artificial animals gaining neurons and synapses as they compete to draw a gradient on an animated shared canvas which constitutes 1024 frames spread through time.

Yes, but what is it?

Re:What is it? (5, Funny)

statusbar (314703) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999102)

All you need to do is to watch that linked youtube video.

It doesn't explain anything at all but will give you epilepsy after two viewings.

--jeffk++

Re:What is it? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999336)

All you need to do is to watch that linked youtube video.

It doesn't explain anything at all but will give you epilepsy after two viewings.

--jeffk++

Didn't do anything to me. I already have epilepsy.

Re:What is it? (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 2 years ago | (#34000268)

It doesn't explain anything at all but will give you epilepsy after two viewings.

That's just to give the music enough time to burn holes in your brain...

Re:What is it? (5, Informative)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999210)

It's semi-random computer-simulated artificial animals moving, eating, breeding, evolving and surviving (or not). The link to critterding [sourceforge.net] doesn't directly state this, but gives enough information that you can reasonably figure it out:

How the program works

Critters are informed by sensors:

  • if their head touches food unit
  • if their head touches another critter
  • if they are able to procreate
  • about their energy state
  • about their age
  • about the state of their joints
  • what the world looks like (RGBA vision)

Critters can make use of the following motor neurons (actions):

  • bend joint
  • bend joint in other direction
  • eat
  • procreate

At default, the program sets up a small world with a relatively large amount of food units and keeps throwing in critters with randomly generated brains and bodies.

(picture omitted)

After a while, one of these idiot critters will unavoidably be good enough to maintain a small population:

(picture omitted)

Slowly but surely, their behaviour will become a lot less random as they demonstrate increasingly better survival skills:

(picture and video omitted)

Re:What is it? (2, Informative)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999296)

The thing is though that it takes an awfully long time to evolve a creature that even moves randomly, eats food when touching it, and procreate when reasonable.

But until you get to that point, you have no chance of seeing interesting behaviors like using the eye to find food or avoiding predators.

IIRC, about 6 months ago, a post to the critterding mailing list indicated that besides the program creator, only one other person had managed to evolve a creature that would actively look for food.

Re:What is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34002924)

The thing is though that it takes an awfully long time to evolve a creature that even moves randomly, eats food when touching it, and procreate when reasonable.

But until you get to that point, you have no chance of seeing interesting behaviors like using the eye to find food or avoiding predators.

IIRC, about 6 months ago, a post to the critterding mailing list indicated that besides the program creator, only one other person had managed to evolve a creature that would actively look for food.

It took the earth perhaps a billion years to achieve that. The first life wasn't actually doing anything actively... it just floated in a soup, and multiplied... until the oxygen ran out.

It took even more time to get plants that used the sun's energy and to form the balance between plants and animals.

Personally, I see this critterding as an experiment. Not very relevant to most people. Probably just as relevant as the discovery of a galaxy when the universe was only 600 million years old. Nobody (at least on Slashdot) seemed to question the value of that discovery. But science that looks like a game, and that people can download and install must be instant fun.

-- Just google for some flash games if you want instant fun. Sorry to end with a little flame. I need more coffee.

Re:What is it? (1)

meeotch (524339) | more than 2 years ago | (#34000086)

* bend joint
        * bend joint in other direction
        * eat
        * procreate

Big deal - I do that all the time! Only I don't normally stop to eat in the middle.

Re:What is it? (3, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34000836)

Big deal - I do that all the time! Only I don't normally stop to eat in the middle.

My wife says you're missing the most important part.

Re:What is it? - Better Video Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003034)

This video shows off a successful evolution of creatures with critterdrug:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJCce8u9LAo&feature=related

You can see the creatures walking around on the platform consuming food and avoiding bumping into each other. They look almost like snails. They were evolved over time after many iterations of the program ran, looping over and over letting creatures die until one survived to reproduce successfully and survive on it's own. And, so a species was born.

IMHO this video is far more impressive and a better explanation of what the program does than the one provided in the article.

From what I gather, the joints and brains come together at random. And, if their motor skills are lacking they die of starvation. If their brains aren't intelligent enough to process their inputs and generate the series of steps necessary to gather food and procreate, they die off. However, eventually after enough generations you encounter a species of critter that combines good joint "design" and decent enough intelligence to move around successfully, gather and eat food, find a mate, and procreate.

That's what you're seeing the result of in the video above.

Re:What is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34015838)

That's critterding. You still haven't explained critterdrug:

differences from critterding
We've made the following changes to the superb parent application...

To substrate: critters gain a 64x48 shared retina, animated through time as 1024 frames play forward than in reverse. They can make writes to this retina that will affect all the other critters and so use it for communication, art, or war. The screen scrolls over time to help teach them its dimensionality. F5 brings it up. This used to bring up the population graph, you'll have to use the HUD (F8) to do that now. The graph also now charts neurons and synapses but doesn't work quite as well. Hit T to pause/unpause the psychic screen/racial movie and view a still frame as changes are made to it, but this will probably mess up critters who are accustomed to it softly scintillating, or whatever, so do unpause after

To environment: we added a selection of psychoactive tablets. The new profile parameters are pill_energylevel (dose), pill_maxlifetime, pill_maxtrip (max allowed onboard dose of each drug), and pill_size. These serve as agonists and antagonists for the two main types of neuron, and a fifth drug acts as a potentiator.

To critters' brains: motors to blink were added, for both the main retina and the communal hallucination screen. Three motors to select in binary a write intensity were also added as well as hundreds of inputs and outputs for reading and writing the screen itself. "Touching pill" input was added. Some other stuff

Re:What is it? (1)

oreaq (817314) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999358)

You have to read the description of critterding [sourceforge.net] in order to understand the changes made in critterdrug (as described in TFA). The software actually is pretty cool. It's a simulation of a evolutionary process starting with agents ("critters") with different random attributes. The agents can perform actions like "eat", "procreate", or "bend joint" and have sensors for "food", other critters, their own condition, and so on.

Re:What is it? (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999962)

As far as I can tell it is a waste of time. There is no science here, no mathematics, and it seems to be a pretty awful game. This is a huge waste of computer resources all around and I'm frankly surprised the summary managed to be as coherent as it did.

Re:What is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34002446)

Check out the original critterding.

Re:What is it? (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003380)

I was worried, and afraid to show my ignorance by saying i didn't understand what the hell the topic was about...Now I don't feel so bad.

I am fucking wasted (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999032)

I'm pretty goddamn drunk right now but I'm fucking certain that summary makes as little sense to everyone else on here as it does to me.

Re:I am fucking wasted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999118)

I was just thinking that myself...

Re:I am fucking wasted - it makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999510)

it makes sense to me! oh wait.. what?

Sorry I'm late posting, but... (2, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999034)

my universe keeps getting stopped and restarted.

Re:Sorry I'm late posting, but... (1)

brilanon (1121645) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999660)

That is just randoms starving to death at roughly the same time or dying of old age. You can tamper mincritters in F6 to speed that part up, or slow it down, if you want. It's a search at the start: then when a species gets hold, it's optimization

Translation? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999160)

Translation:
Advertisement! Something for teens has been updated with a new interface, making it easier! There's a video of ... pokemon? eating brains and trying to use the gradient fill tool in photoshop on a 1024 frame video. The canvas is a big background for .. digimon I guess. What you get are viruses bound by the psychic friends network on the Survivor tv show competing against ... the forces of physics? Maybe they're trying to defy gravity or build a space elevator or something. The submitter took 5 kinds of drugs! Keys, or maybe people, have been moved about in a re-org. Love my product!

Hire a better PR person, seriously.

Art... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999242)

... is in the eye of the beholder. Don't make them smarter or more advanced or with knowledge of what is beauty. A rainbow could be considered art, and that is just light passing thru a prism.

Re:Art... (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999822)

"A rainbow could be considered art, and that is just light passing thru a prism."

No, no, no. Prisms remove the anti-colors. You know nothing, Jon Snow.

WTF (1)

thestudio_bob (894258) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999268)

This is a good example as to why smart people need a marketing person.

WTF is it? I get that it's suppose to be AI, but what the heck is it trying to accomplish? Is it trying to make a color palette?

yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999384)

but is it art?! o_O

Controls-Relevant Part of Changelog (4, Interesting)

brilanon (1121645) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999402)

+ keys to drug the whole population: hjnm, and undrug, dfcvb. Fullscreen was moved to g, colourmode moved to x, and mouselook moved to / (careful!)

If you hit F1, a lot of those keys are misreported -- I'm so sorry ;_;

Also, do hit 's' as one of the first things and edit your new profile called 'default' in the working directory, then launch with --profile default to use the new settings. A lot of the options new with critterdrug aren't configurable in-game yet...

Also it uses ~/.critterding like critterding itself. This is not really a major collision, you can still use both apps if you separate the profile names and keep the load dir clean (can't exchange critters between ding and drug)

Those are the most important caveats... if you want to show them pictures, I'd make ~/.critterding/screenshots a ramdisk... then just squirt 64x48 PNM's to scrn.pnm there, and set show_scrn.pnm_every. Also, anim_screen_every can be set much higher than 1 in order to make sure each pixel sits long enough to convert to a firing rate (not just a potential change)... or they might only 'see' a blur

I reasoned eventually that what they experience as qualia is probably firing rates not potentials. But what exactly does that say, anyway?

I'm really happy it hit the frontpage :3 It's a science app and it isn't finished but I hope someone gets some joy from this. Researching evolved AI has been a lot of fun for me. The app is about ten months old... critterding, two to three years. In fact critterding is included in debian now.

Wow

Re:Controls-Relevant Part of Changelog (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 3 years ago | (#34001822)

That doesn't make much more sense than the summary. But at least you didn't bring in as much breathless enthusiasm, and kept it a little more rational.

Look, simple question: what does the app *do*? What's the *point* of "evolving" these things? That's the missing part.

Re:Controls-Relevant Part of Changelog (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003266)

It's possible to test, using these models of evolution, whether the more advanced behaviors we see, like posting to Slashdot, could eventually be attained by these computer models.

Actually there was recently a headline about some kind of relatively advanced behavior which was evolved in this way (not using that particular program). Sorry, I don't remember what it was. Have a vague hunch I heard about from the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast.

I suppose it's supposed to add extra evidence to help convert the evolution-nay-sayers, but frankly, they're preaching to a (relatively) deaf choir, in that case.

Re:Controls-Relevant Part of Changelog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003882)

In the simplest of terms, I guess it demonstrates emergence. Critterdrug adds drugs to the mix.

Re:Controls-Relevant Part of Changelog (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 3 years ago | (#34008368)

I suppose it's supposed to add extra evidence to help convert the evolution-nay-sayers, but frankly, they're preaching to a (relatively) deaf choir, in that case.

If I was a evolution nay-sayer, I could very well believe that a computer can *simulate* evolution without also believing that humans are the result of evolution. So... if that's the purpose, someone didn't think it all the way through. I still don't really get it but, ok whatever.

Re:Controls-Relevant Part of Changelog (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003414)

I just knew some airy fairy bastard would get the intent fuckin wrong! It is a Scottish programing tool to find out if lesbian debians...oops ..sorry , debian lesbians can proformicate ++a+. Jeezuz...can't you bastards get anything right?

A fine example of evolving art (5, Interesting)

zoom-ping (905112) | more than 2 years ago | (#33999408)

The Electric Sheep [electricsheep.org].
Best. Screensaver. Ever.

Re:A fine example of evolving art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#33999718)

The Electric Sheep [electricsheep.org].

Best. Screensaver. Ever.

Agreed. I stopped using it when I realized that the processor utilization when it was running raised my room temperature by 8 degrees.
I'd wake up in the middle of the night uncomfortably warm. Not cool.

Re:A fine example of evolving art (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34002546)

I'd wake up in the middle of the night uncomfortably warm. Not cool.

We know that uncomfortably warm means not cool, thanks.

Re:A fine example of evolving art (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34002680)

Agreed. I stopped using it when I realized that the processor utilization when it was running raised my room temperature by 8 degrees.
I'd wake up in the middle of the night uncomfortably warm. Not cool.

You can switch the rendering off, though. Then it only plays the downloaded sheep.

Critterdrug... its Mac based visuals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34000102)

I've been playing around with virtual life and neural networks.
As far as i understand its one a the few Macintosh based virtual .. something.
It is "some" world, with "some" rules on it with apperantly a lot of "neurons" who are not able to make any sense to my own neurons.

I guess their world is to bizar to be real as i understand; a physics engine and rain of drug ??? or food ??
On which some "blocks" evolve,...( but they stay a block??) ..
I such world i'm realy not surprised about the numbers of genes or neurons, or group behaviour as long as it doesnt make sense

I think i should keep in mind how typical Mac Ipod Ipad I.. etc users think;
"well its not microsoft based its cool because its Mac i got fooled by their marketing and so i must have one"

This programmer doesnt care either about functionality or reality .. aslong as it does look cool its ok for iMac users.
Words as cool are much more important then practical, or usefull or insightfull

For people starting with in interest in AI and virtual live, without a need to be " iWhite-thisCool " disease i would recommend Darwin bots; its freeware
Something like darwinbots is more fun to watch, new users might need some background reading first : http://bio.freelogy.org/wiki/Darwinbots
You can make a sim with plants and predators, based on simple DNA.. not with neurons (but life doesnt require neurons...bacteria dont have them neither)
And then observe your world.. Darwinbots 2 is old sure, but you can see what actualy happens.
And your written DNA might even mutate, or over the internet you can do a battle between species.
It will cost you some time to understand DNA but then its pretty funny to play with.

there is even more AI and virtual life on the windows platform, if you use google, and darwinbots isnt the best maybe.. but its free not like many other software in this field.

 

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Makes as much sense as the rest of this article did. I want an ootball jersey.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003472)

The linked /. article in the YouTube video description helps a bit. Sounds like drugs are the key element for both the AI and probably the humans who are involved :p

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