Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World (Google eBook)

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University of California Press, Oct 17, 1998 - Literary Collections - 314 pages
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"Silicon Second Nature" takes us on an expedition into an extraordinary world where nature is made of bits and bytes and life is born from sequences of zeroes and ones. Artificial Life is the brainchild of scientists who view self-replicating computer programs such as computer viruses as new forms of life. Anthropologist Stefan Helmreich's look at the social and simulated worlds of Artificial Life primarily at the Santa Fe Institute, a well-known center for studies in the sciences of complexity introduces readers to the people and programs connected with this unusual hybrid of computer science and biology. When biology becomes an information science, when DNA is downloaded into virtual reality, new ways of imagining "life" become possible. Through detailed dissections of the artifacts of Artifical Life, Helmreich explores how these novel visions of life are recombining with the most traditional tales told by Western culture. Because Artificial Life scientists tend to see themselves as masculine gods of their cyberspace creations, as digital Darwins exploring frontiers filled with primitive creatures, their programs reflect prevalent representations of gender, kinship, and race, and repeat origin stories most familiar from mythical and religious narratives. But Artificial Life does not, Helmreich says, simply reproduce old stories in new software. Much like contemporary activities of cloning, cryonics, and transgenics, the practice of simulating and synthesizing life "in silico" challenges and multiplies the very definition of vitality. Are these models, as some would claim, actually another form of the real thing? "Silicon Second Nature" takes Artifical Life as a symptom and source of our mutating visions of life itself.
  

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Contents

Introduction
3
Simulation in Santa Fe
29
The Word for World Is Computer
65
Inside and Outside the LookingGlass Worlds of Artificial Life
107
Concerning the Spiritual in Artificial Life
181
Artificial Life in a Worldwide Web
205
Coda
251
Notes
257
References
281
Index
303
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

Stefan Helmreich is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World "(UC Press).

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