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The Possible Irreducibility of Artificial Software Life - Bruce Edmonds

3 Artificial Life

In the opening paragraph of [3], Chris Langton defines artificial life as

"... the study of man-made systems that exhibit behaviours characteristic of natural living systems.".

This is fairly uncontroversial, as it makes no claim that such man-made systems could be alive. Also it includes man-made natural systems as well as software systems*1. Several authors who classify systems as either reducible (mechanistic or formal or computable or...) or "complex" (i.e. not reducible, computable ...), would categorise any system inhabiting the material world as complex and thus not reducible. Thus the idea of hardware artificial life is not so much of a perceived threat, as this is already allowed to be irreducible. The sharp disagreement comes when we consider software systems.

Later, in the same article, Chris Langton says:

"Life is a property of form, not matter,...".

This is more controversial, it implies that software could be alive as it could encode the form of life separate from its implementation (i.e. matter). There are arguments against this, notably Pattee (e.g. [4]). It is Artificial Life in this second, non-corporeal form that I will be primarily concerned with.

The Possible Irreducibility of Artificial Software Life - Bruce Edmonds - 20 MAY 97
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