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...what Is 'life'?, Slightly different approach...

Devilsadvocate
post Aug 3 2007, 10:55 PM
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I just came across the following, and just couldn't resist...
At first i wanted to post it in the lobby, but even though it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, it does provide some food for thought as well i think.
I translated it from a German article i found at an internet-forum; link to the original (with some pictures and a video) below:

http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/19/19390/1.html


"The rights of the 'Sims' "
by Klaus Neumann


"Should digital life be treated as a protected species?"

"Are the Sims of "The Sims 2" by Electronic Arts a life-form? Is an artificial life-form hidden behind this computer-game, which not only simulates life- but even is alive itself in some way?
Should Sims be protected from the sadistic experiments of humans?
Is it possible to create the first documentary about artificial life, using the record-function in
'Sims 2'? (See 'Father and sin', Machinima-documentary filmed in 'The Sims 2).

In my attempt to find a common definition of life, i had to recognise that there is none. Most enzyclopedias will only provide a biological definition. Since biology depends first and foremost upon the observation of the existing, these definitions leave little room for un-known forms of life.
Many definitions of life are therefore confined to functional properties.
Often mentioned are the ability to react, mobility, a restricted life-span, heredity of properties, reproduction, growth and differentiation, individuality and evolution through mutation and selection.
A more compact definition was given by the neuro-informatics-specialist Daniel Polani.
If he is to be believed, then life is "...the conservation of structure over a prolonged period, even though the underlying dynamics are far more shortlived". Man for example keeps up the structure of his body for several decades, even though its matter is completely replaced in intervalls of a few years, says Polani.
But what if the structural conversation does not depend on a material foundation at all, but instead is bound exclusively to information?
What if artificial life is already a reality, within the PC's of the millions of players of 'The Sims 2'?

Fiery end:
I begin the following experiment:
I re-load the game and create a test-series. My eight test-Sims are generated by Random number generator. I make sure that they are four men and four women of adult age, who are not related to each other. Then i create an environment in which they will find everzthing neccessary for their existence:
Food-source (cooker and fridge), one bed for each, a toilet and a separate room for- well, for procreation. Also, a garden will provide enough space for virtual movement, with a set of garden-furniture as a social focal point.
My theory: If the Sims can survive and manage to propagate over several generations without the need for my intervention, then it may represent life.
I allow the Sims to move in and use the mouse only to monitor vital functions. It looks as if its working- the Sims seem interested, take possession of their environment and begin to interact. Their are often traffic-jams in front of the toilet, and the mood sinks down to the red level. They also seem to be reluctant to share the double bed with a Sim of the opposite sex.
I remain hard and do not interfere.
By and large it works. The test-Sims begin to build relationships to each other and change their surroundings. I observe how some of them keep order inside the house and in the garden, while others especially like to cook.
After a week, fire breaks out suddenly. The cooker is on fire, and everyone runs screaming into the kitchen to view the misfortune close-up.
No one gets the idea to call the fire brigade.
I watch how interior and Sims burn bit by bit.
The animated figure of death turns up and collects the last one of my Sims- strangely he uses the toilet for a last time before he too dissappears. It's horrible.
I tell myself that my test-setup was not optimal. If you put a gas-cooker into a stoneage-mans cave, the interior may have gone up in flames as well. Life can not develope and exist in just any environment.
Thus i install a smoke-detector. It will call the fire-brigade automatically if the kitchen goes on fire. I use the occasion to install a second toilet and a few more beds.
It seems as if the game can sense my attempt. During the second test-run, the kitchen goes up in flames after just three days. The fire is extinguished, but erupts again just two days later.
The existance of my Sims only centers around their fear of fire from now on. Many sit on the floor, babbling senselessly.
Does my test cause psychosis?
I nevertheless keep it running and turn my attention to life-symptoms while i'm at it.

Body and time:

I read in an online-forum that life must have some physical basis and can not just consist of information. On closer inspection, the data stored on my harddrive also exists in a physical form on the magneticised surface. While the Sims in my test-house are developing, the surface of my harddrive also changes. We could speak of a physical basis, even if its very different from any cell-based being. I also read that time is a constant which can not be influenced by any being.
Time- a constant?
In "The Sims", time can be stopped; it can run faster or be slowed down, and it can be re-loaded to make up for any mistake made during gameplay.
But the Sims themselves can't do that.
Their life-quality begins when the game is loaded and ends when the program is ended.
This has nothing to do with experiencing time. The Sims do not notice that for me days may have passed between two save-points.

Starved in front of the fridge:

Back to the experiment. By now, the fire-brigade comes almost every day to prevent the worst. My Sims have developed real psychological problems. That seems also the reason why their sex-drive is inhibited. A few friendships have formed, but no intimate relationships.
Add to this that the fridge is empty because the Sims were not able to refill it on their own.
Some turn around, seemingly looking at me, begging me with their eyes:
"Go on- do something!"
But i remain hard. They must manage on their own.The first life-forms on earth were not granted the privilege of having the fridge re-filled either; they had to be able to keep their structure intact on their own.
The Sims could do the same thing- after all, they got a telephone and could call a pizza-delivery service. But they don't.
Instead the first cases of feebleness and circulatory disorder begin to appear.
It's painful; i turn the game-speed up.
By the time i turn it down again, death already collects the last female Sim. She died of starvation right in front of the fridge.
The experiment has failed. I read in an interview with "Sims"-inventor Will Wright that the artificial intelligence within the game was just too good during the developement-phase.
The Sims were able to completely manage their lives on their own, have children and raise them, so Will Wright.
But in order for the player (and buyer) to feel needed, they programmed flaws into the game which made it impossible for the Sims to exist on their own.

Is Man for the Sims a God?

So it wasn't my fault. The designers of the game first created artificial life only to sacrifice to game-enjoyment. I'm horrified.
Then i think back to the experiment and a completely different thought creeps up.
Is Man a God to the Sims?
Don't people believe in a creator who watches over everything, and who more or less controls the fate of man too?
Don't they raise their hands to heaven to ask for help in difficult situations, just like the Sims?
Don't many believe that a God has laid out our entire existence from beginning to end, and that we only slowly move forward within that?
And didn't our God create a few obstacles along the way which turn our own existance into a cosmic PC-game?
Perhaps the game is more of a God-simulation then a life-simulation?
I wait for "Sims 3" and hope that an option "turn off faults in artificial intelligence" will be included. Then i'll found the "Society for the prevention of cruelty to digital life-forms" (SPCDL) and write letters to the government, to ensure that those flaws can never be re-activated. I'll see to it that no more cruel experiments can be carried out on those beings, ever.
As soon as a game is started, people will be responsible for their Sims as they would be for a pet. A warning-indication will be flashing on the screen at the beginning of every game.
And i shall pray that God will forgive me my contemptuous experiments with the second-generation Sims..."

laugh.gif
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lunk
post Aug 4 2007, 03:22 AM
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Fascinating experiment!

In answer to the question:
What is 'life?'
Answer: Better than the alternative!

imho, lunk
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painter
post Aug 4 2007, 11:18 AM
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QUOTE (lunk @ Aug 3 2007, 11:22 PM)
<s>
In answer to the question:
What is 'life?'
Answer: Better than the alternative!
<s>

So sure are you.

If some of the theories emanating from observations below the Plank scale are correct, time may not exist at the most fundamental level of physical reality.


Therefore it could be
said
that we are already
dead.

Thus it may be that it isn't an 'either or' matter at all.
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lunk
post Aug 4 2007, 12:07 PM
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When I stop and think about it...
there is not, nor ever was time.
the past is vanishing and the future
has not yet arrived. The only thing
that does exist is the present moment.
We see it as a point in time, but in
reality that's all that is and everything
else exists only in the mind.

imho, lunk
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Tamborine man
post Aug 5 2007, 02:33 AM
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So true, so true.

Time does NOT exist as reality.
It exist as an abstract, though -
as a help to immature mankind.

The only thing that can be said
to exist as absolute reality,
is the sequence of events.

The highest speed possible
between points a and b,
is zero - or no time!

This post has been edited by Tamborine man: Aug 5 2007, 02:35 AM
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rob balsamo
post Aug 5 2007, 02:45 AM
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QUOTE (lunk @ Aug 4 2007, 03:22 AM)
Fascinating experiment!

In answer to the question:
What is 'life?'
Answer: Better than the alternative!

imho, lunk

Although i agree with you from my perspective...but...

how do you know?


wink.gif
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Tamborine man
post Aug 5 2007, 03:27 AM
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Wrote this poem (if you can call it that!)
back in -72, when I was young, hopeful,
optimistic, positive and - credulous :

As Love will forever prevail
and as the Truth IS with no beginning and no end,

as all IS
and as everything IS eternal,

as life will forever create life
and as the magnitude of stars are infinite,

it is my solemn duty to proclaim to the world
that she behaves like a Jack-ass.

____________

'They were obviously not listening,
and they're not listening still'!



wall.gif

This post has been edited by Tamborine man: Aug 5 2007, 03:41 AM
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Devilsadvocate
post Aug 5 2007, 12:03 PM
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To Painter:
QUOTE
Therefore it could be
said
that we are already
dead.


...Or maybe it's the other way around?
What i mean is- what if death doesn't exist?

To Tamoborine man:
QUOTE
'They were obviously not listening,
and they're not listening still'!


...No need for head-banging.
What do you expect- they are busy playing 'The Sims'!!!
Now we could ask the question why people keep themselves amused with trivialities:
What is so fascinating about a computer-game in which you control characters going about the very things most people in the western world go about?
Simple. It gives them a feeling of 'being in control'.
In other words: It allows them to play 'God' for a few hours, rather then having to live with the feeling of being subject to all kinds of things they have no control over at all. That's also the reason why the on-line version of that game was a flop:
Having to share that 'godly' feel with other players destroys the illusion...
In a strange way, it's a reflection of the concept of religion itself:
Looking up to a God who keeps watch over you also provides a feeling of not being subject to things one cannot control- based on the idea that 'God' will keep those things (i.e., the negative ones) at bay as long as enough faith is injected.
An illusion, perhaps- just as the feeling of security provided by playing 'God' in the Sims.
But no two people are ever the same; truly taking charge over one's existance may be easy for some who are either pre-destined to greatness or who reach a higher level through meditation- or some such thing.
The remainder may well end up looking for some way to keep their sanity... idea.gif
And often enough, they end up being subject to the un-controllable forces of the sales-pitch! B)
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painter
post Aug 5 2007, 12:27 PM
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QUOTE (Devilsadvocate @ Aug 5 2007, 08:03 AM)
To Painter:
QUOTE

Therefore it could be
said
that we are already
dead.


...Or maybe it's the other way around?
What i mean is- what if death doesn't exist?
<s>

My points are not always explicitly stated.
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Tamborine man
post Aug 8 2007, 08:13 AM
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QUOTE (painter @ Aug 5 2007, 11:27 AM)
QUOTE (Devilsadvocate @ Aug 5 2007, 08:03 AM)
To Painter:
QUOTE

Therefore it could be
said
that we are already
dead.


...Or maybe it's the other way around?
What i mean is- what if death doesn't exist?
<s>





Death sort of exist as a concept,

but it can also sort of be said that

death is dying.

It sort of lies in its nature....

to sort of just do that -

one day!

But first, we must sort of grow up

a bit more,

before it sort of becomes apparent

that death has finally died. wink.gif
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lunk
post Sep 14 2007, 03:26 AM
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Life is great!

How do I know?

I've heard this said many times.
I have even, emphatically stated it. myself.
And, I have actually experienced, good times.
I hope others are more fortunate than me.

Life is great!


If the opposite of life is death.
then the opposite of great is...
well, not so great.

But I'm just guessing.

cheers, lunk
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amazed!
post Sep 15 2007, 03:23 PM
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Well my son, life is rather like a beanstalk, isn't it?

Procol Harum

B)
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Devilsadvocate
post Sep 15 2007, 07:46 PM
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Yep- and most people prefer to climb up to one of the lower parts, sit on the nearest pod and watch the beans grow. They got no idea what might be above them- and they don't want to know either...
BTW- i managed to buy a second-hand copy of that game a while ago;
quite enjoyable, actually.
Strange maybe- because you better remember to remind these guys to go to the loo, get there behind up to the fridge and pay their bills, or else...
The interesting thing about it is not so much the actual concept of the game, but the fact that all kinds of people are 'modding' it. Some of the stuff they come up with is amazing-
I saw one project in which a woman from Portugal has created a number of 'Sims' based on paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema; she not only used the paintings as an inspiriration, but integrated textures from those paintings.
The result is that those figures almost look like paintings themselves...
(Except that the effect would crash-land the moment the figures become animated in the game; they just won't behave like the characters Alma-Tadema created in his paintings.)
But creativity comes in many ways- and this form of it is still better than the concept of being 'creative' by finding the right place for an ambush in some game centered around snipers...
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