Emergence, Artificial Life, and A New Blog

I’m starting a new blog to study and write about emergence and artificial life. It’s called Emergent Mind and you can check it out at EmergentMind.com.

I’ve been interested in these topics for quite some time but have avoided pursuing them because there aren’t a lot of practical short-term applications for that line of study. However, now that I’m happily employed I’m looking for a long-term side project and given that this is something I’ve wanted to learn more about for many years, now seems like a perfect time to start.

What exactly am I talking about? Emergence is the movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication. For example, how do the laws of physics result in chemistry, how does chemistry lead to biology, and how does biology lead to intelligence? These last two are particularly interesting to me. As Steven Johnson puts it in his excellent book Emergence:

We all start life as a single-celled organism, and yet by the end of our development cycle, we’re somehow composed of two hundred types of cells, all intricately connected to one another, and all performing stunningly complex tasks. How does an egg somehow know how to build a chicken?

As a software developer I understand how to build a program to perform a certain task. In biology though there is no architect; there is no one overseeing how we are built. Our cells have been programmed by almost four billion years of evolution to do what they need to do to generate you and me. That’s absolutely amazing to me.

What would happen if you tried to simulate that process through software? Could you simulate life? Could you simulate intelligence? What does it even mean for something to be alive or be intelligence? These aren’t easy questions. These topics are what artificial life researchers study and they are what I intended to work on and write about on this new blog.

For my first Emergent Mind project, I implemented Boids in JavaScript. In the future I plan to implement Conway’s Game of Life, 1 and 2-d cellular automata, Richard Dawkins’s Biomorphs, and other artificial life projects. Long term, maybe I’ll be able to come up with some of my own.

With that, I’d like to invite you to check out the first project: Boids in JavaScript.


If you would like to follow the new blog, I set up a feed as well as a newsletter where I’ll send out updates when I release new projects.

If you’re interested in these topics, I’d love to chat: drop me a note.