My books

Creation: Life and how to make it

This is a book about the philosophy behind my Creatures game. Don’t expect a technical programming guide or a history of Artificial Life; it’s my personal thoughts on the nature of life, matter and mind. But you can’t write a program like Creatures unless you have the right philosophy, biology and computer science approach. Many have tried, but making real artificial life turns out to be harder than a lot of people assume.

Click here to read the Introduction.

Growing up with Lucy: How to build an android in twenty easy steps

Warning: I lied about the number of steps!

This is a record – a kind of lab notebook – of the research I did after Creatures, to try to understand the nature of actual minds, not just intelligence. These are the ideas and insights I’ve been building on over the past decade in order to develop my new ‘game’, which is vastly more advanced than Creatures.

Click here to read the Introduction.

Some kind things people have said about my work

“This is a giant leap forward into a new and unknown world. The same processes which gave rise to life in the real world have been modelled in software and the results are awe-inspiring. I first saw this program in the same week that evidence was discovered of life on Mars. This is more exciting.”  - Douglas Adams

“Steve Grand is the creator of what I think is the nearest approach to artificial life so far, and his first book, Creation: Life and how to Make it, is as interesting as you would expect. But he illuminates more than just the properties of life: his originality extends to matter itself and the very nature of reality. Not since David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Reality have I encountered such a compelling invitation to think everything out afresh, from the bottom up.”  - Richard Dawkins

“Steve Grand’s work straddles so many areas of contemporary human interest that it’s difficult to know where to place him. He’s at the cutting edge of a whole set of questions about the possible future extensions of human intelligence – and is himself the creator of some very successful forms of artificial life which continue to proliferate through the Internet.

Steve is a great modern generalist with a broad base of knowledge and practical skills. His work draws on a web of provocative connections between biology, evolution theory, cognition theory, and computer science and suggests new philosophical ideas about what constitutes life and human-ness.- Brian Eno

66 Responses to My books

  1. Greetings Steve!
    I’ve dropped a line occasionally over the years to wish you and your family (both organic and silicon-based) seasons greetings and this year is no exception: Have a very Happy and Healthy 2009!

    Best wishes,

    Rich.

    P.S Sorry, I lost your email addy!!

  2. Oops — sorry my mistook!

  3. stevegrand says:

    Thanks Rich. Happy New Year to you and any robots too!

  4. Sam Wane says:

    Hi Steve,
    I heard about you at a recent symposium named ‘Supertoy’ at the Arnolfini Centre in Bristol. I was also chatting to Ann who I met there as I’m running a Cafe Scientifique soon.

    Your new robot venture sounds interesting-I’ll keep my eye on it.

    Well done in getting to the US, how did you manage it as I’d love to move out there too?

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Sam,

      Yes, Ann said Supertoys was good. Tom Trevor and Geoff Cox had been trying to get that show on the road for some years – I was supposed to be involved too, but events got in the way. I’m really glad they finally got it together.

      > Well done in getting to the US, how did you manage it as I’d love to move out there too
      :-) Hmmm, that’s a very long story, but the trick is to have a major mid-life crisis, do some really good things and some really horrible things, and end up married to an American girl…

      I hope your new Cafe Sci is a big success.

  5. Sam Wane says:

    Fantastic!
    Thanks for your honest reply. I’m a little away from the mid-life crisis, and have just received a little boy-so I was impressed to read you took time off to raise yours.
    I’ll follow your ‘Grandriod’ venture and tell my students. If there’s anything I can help with on the robotics front, or if you find any opportunities for me over the pond, do let me know.
    Regards,
    Sam

  6. Shaun says:

    Hey Steve,

    I’m nearly 3/4 way through your book Creation.
    It’s definitely a fantastic read and helped me develop new ways of looking at artificial life.
    I’ve had a look through the bibliography and cannot find what I’m looking for, that is, a book on pure cybernetics. I’ve done book searches on-line and it always just comes up with information theory and complexity theory and so on. I can’t find a book that is just on the kind of stuff you talk about in Chapter 8 of your book.

    Any suggestions?

    Shaun

    • stevegrand says:

      Hey Shaun,

      Thanks – glad you’re enjoying it!

      >cannot find what I’m looking for, that is, a book on pure cybernetics.

      Um, I’m not sure what to suggest. I just sort of absorbed cybernetics through my skin as a child, rather than from books. It was years before I even realized that there was a word for the way I thought. So I can’t offer much in the way of reading matter. What’s more, cybernetics in its original sense all but died, to be replaced by information theory and then complexity and complex adaptive systems, so there aren’t going to be many contemporary books. In fact I’m thinking of writing one, since there still seems to be a lot to say about feedback. Your best bet is perhaps to track down some of the early texts, like “Cybernetics”, by Norbert Weiner.

      Another good place to look might be the Principia Cybernetica website (damn them – I’d have loved to write a book by that name!) at http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/

  7. Jason Derr says:

    Mr. Grand

    LOVED reading the ‘Creation’ book. It made me regret all those years of making fun of computer nerds.

    A few questions:

    1) Im not a computer programer, but have ideas inspired by your book. Are their ‘turnkey’ programs i could start with in order to learn/explore your ideas?

    2) By training im a fiction writer/theologian/philosopher. Your work has inspired me to start making notes for a story. Thank you!

    Jason

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Jason,

      Thank you!

      Well, there are assorted artificial life simulators around, but even they can be a bit technical. It depends a lot on which aspects you’re interested in. On the whole, if you want to explore your own ideas I’m afraid you’ll have to admit defeat and become a computer nerd too!

      Hope the story works out. Strange that an atheist like me can inspire something in a theologian. Best of luck.

      – Steve

  8. Christopher says:

    Hey Steve,

    Couldn’t find a more appropriate place to post this so sorry if it is out of place…

    I was digging through old computers discs tonight and found my copy of Creatures, unfortunately it wouldn’t install on my Vista machine:(. So I tracked down the the developer, which, of course, brought me here. On arriving, I read your bio which stated that you are looking to work on a successor to Creatures. That’s exciting.

    I recently graduated with my BFA studying New Media Arts here in Toronto, Canada. I’ve always been interested in artificial life and the possibility of ‘creating consciousness’. I’ve been working, albeit very casually, within the Processing environment (processing.org) to build an artificial musician who listens, reacts and responds musically to the timbre, ‘mood’, etc. of my live playing… still very much in progress.

    Anyhow, the reason for my post is simply to extend my kudos to you, I’ve just ordered both your books and can’t wait to dig into them. It is inspiring to a recent graduate with a seemingly similar disposition (and that post-recent-graduation search for direction) to read your biography and look at your work (I’m not being a kiss ass, it truly is).

    If you are ever looking for eager young minds who haven’t been jaded enough to refuse volunteering their time towards interesting projects, drop me a line:)

    • stevegrand says:

      Thanks Chris! :-)

      > unfortunately it wouldn’t install on my Vista machine

      Yeah, sorry about that. When I started writing it, it was for MS-DOS, then I rewrote it for Windows 3.1, then Windows 95 came out before I’d finished it and so I had to change it again. Obviously I didn’t look far enough ahead, though – it never occurred to me someone might want to install it 12 years later!

      Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoy the books. Good luck with finding a direction (and I hope whatever it turns out to be pays!) Good luck with the virtual accompanist too.

      Watch this space.

  9. Steve Palmer says:

    Hi Steve,
    I just finished your excellent book ‘Creation,’ and reading the last chapter I realised there is an author/researcher whose work you might be interested in. He’s called Nicholas Humphrey and he developed the social intelligence theory of consciousness. All his books are wonderful, but, if interested, you might like to begin with ‘A History Of The Mind.’ ‘Seeing Red,’ ‘The Inner Eye’ and ‘Soul Searching’ are also fantastic.
    Let me know if you find inspiration for that thing you wrote you were so close to finding…
    STEVE…

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for that. I know a little of Nick Humphrey’s work but I don’t read nearly enough, so I’ll check those out.

      Trust me, the minute I catch hold of that glimpse, I’ll tell the entire world! :-)

  10. Stephen Prather says:

    I bought Creation used from Amazon (sorry Steve!). I found something hilarious on the inside cover. It was originally purchased by the library of Avila University, a Christian “higher learning” institution in Kansas City, Missouri. Apparently your title fooled them, but not for long. There’s a red ink stamp: “WITHDRAWN” stamped over their bar code.

    I’ve scanned it. If you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll reply back with the image attached.

    Good day all,
    –Myles

    PS Old news for everyone here I’m sure, but if you enjoyed Creation, you must read Greg Egan’s, Diaspora.

  11. I just looked into Avila U. It’s a Catholic organization, which I suppose is not as bad as if it was a true ID/fundamentalist place. After all, they’ve admitted that Galileo was right after all, so that’s a start. And they seem to be nearing official acceptance of evolution. Not that I’m a big fan of the Catholics; I found this statement on the Avila web site (in the president’s blog):

    “All of created reality has been created by God so as to express the grace of God. ”

    As opposed to… non-created reality? It seems weak for a piece generated by a Catholic university president. If he removed that first “created” it would be a bolder statement, although still whacked.

  12. Michael Lacy says:

    Steve, these thoughts may be a bit of a ramble…I believe that language is the key to us being “thinking” beings. In particular, I think the voice we all have in the back of our heads as the center of our ability to think, and that voice is using a language (english for me). E.g. when we come across a new situation, that voice in the back or our heads helps us reason through it. Other animals and mamimals don’t have this voice or, more to the point a lnguage, and so have limited means to reason. A dog can’t rationalize a situation because of it’s lack of a significantly complex language. I have poorly explained this and I am sure it sounds wacky but language is the loop by which we reason and learn, it helps us give feedback to others so they can learn as well. I have not played Creatures yet, but I imagine one constraint to the creatures learning is not being able to see you and your body language and verbal language as you react to what they say and/or do.

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Michael, It’s certainly ONE key. There are definitely things that you can only think about in language. But there are other ways to think too and I think it depends on how your particular mind works. My first wife would totally agree with you – everything is words in her head. But I do all my best thinking in visual models of things in motion – which is why I’m an engineer, I guess – and I only use language when I need to remember something or explain it to someone. So I agree that language is really important, but there are other things too and people vary a lot in the way they think best. That ability to have an inner voice is very similar to the ability to have an inner visual world or an inner tune or whatever – they’re all examples of mentation, and certainly many animals show little ability to disengage themselves from the world and freewheel like this. My little creatures have absolutely no ability to do this, which is what set me off on my present line of research. Thanks for the observation!

  13. Jaso says:

    Hi

    I am fascinated by what you are doing. My own research interests include the ‘embodied mind’ and I think your own work falls neatly along those lines – as well as pushing some lines.

    So here is my question…how can i, a lay person, do a ‘Lucy-esq’ project?

    Jason

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Jason. Thanks.

      > how can i, a lay person, do a ‘Lucy-esq’ project?

      That’s a big question! I guess I’m a lay person too. Basically you have to develop a bunch of skills and knowledge – electronics, electromechanics, programming, biology, neuroscience, psychology, dynamics, computer science, optics, complexity theory… After that it’s easy!

      You can go out and buy a robot, if that’s what you want to do, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t have inbuilt assumptions that might affect your ideas, which is why I design my own. I don’t really think there’s a substitute for doing everything yourself. I don’t know anything about you, so it’s hard to make concrete suggestions.

  14. Jason says:

    Hi Steve

    Thanks for your feedback. I’m an Independent Scholar myself, or starting down that road (i’m just now getting published, book comes out in the new year etc). My interest – or my emerging interest – is the idea of the ‘embodied mind’ (have you read Steve Lakoff’s ‘Philosophy In the Flesh’ – i think you might dig it!). There are websites a-ton with the ‘bits’ to build the body – since i would not have the skills to build an orangutan it would interesting to see how different bodies lead to different types of development and ‘being’ in the world. It’s the mind that I am wondering about – how did you do it? How does one start etc? Do you have an ‘open source brain’ that you have put out into the world or are you planing on selling it for other developers to use?

    Jason

    • stevegrand says:

      No, I don’t have an open-source brain, sadly (you could interpret that phrase two ways and neither would be true!). Lucy was just a research project and I junked the results after they’d taught me a few things. Plus the hardware was very specific – I designed the computers myself, etc. – so it would be very difficult for someone else to re-use the code anyway.

      What I was interested in was the types of neural computations that might make imagination possible, so it was quite a specific piece of research in one way and quite general in another. At the moment my robotics life is stalled, but what I was ultimately aiming for was a mind, certainly. Not a brain but a mind that could think thoughts “inside its head”, which is a very rare beast in the AI world. But as yet I still don’t really know how to do it, and nobody else does either.

      If you’re interested in how embodiment defines the mind then I imagine the TYPE of mind is a very important factor. A number of researchers have studied embodiment, and you may know some of them, but the “minds” were very trivial stimulus-response systems. It sounds like you’re hoping for rather more than that, but I have to say that AI is pretty much a failure at this point. It’s great at automating things that humans use intelligence to do, but this doesn’t usually mean the automatic system itself is intelligent (I need intelligence to do arithmetic, but a pocket calculator doesn’t). So far, nobody anywhere has got remotely close to developing a complete artificial brain that can do the range of things an animal’s brain can do. It’s still very much a research problem, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

      So what do you want your robot to be able to DO? That’s a good starting point for discussion. Oh, and also give me an idea of your skill-set.

  15. Jason says:

    My skill set? Um…curious. That is my skill set.

    Basically I am fascinated by the idea that we cannot have a brain or mind with out a body. I’m very interested in what you did with Lucy – or what you theorized – and was just wondering if their were ‘hobbiest’ way to do something similar.

    The idea of a learning ‘being’ which can grow and adapt and become (here here my Process philosophy roots are showing) and that that becoming is shaped by its body – by the way in which it knows its world – well, that is just cool.

    I also publish fiction (yep…my ‘indie scholar’ and my desired day job are both no goes on the money front) and now have an ‘edge’ of story idea inspired by your concept and a ‘robotic biosphere’ on, oh lets say, Mars!

    Basically I would love to be able to – in a cheap, hobby sort of way – recreate the expierement, or at least a ‘shadow’ of it, in order to play with the ideas myself.

    So…um…skill set…I wish!

    Jason

    Ps
    The Lakoff book i mentioned is by George Lakoff and not Steve Lakoff. It looks at cognitive science as challenging our assumptions of philosophy. My current publishing all center around pop culture but am hoping to branch out after my book comes out in the new year.

  16. Steve Palmer says:

    If you’re interested in ideas of no-mind-without-body, I suggest you read Nicholas Humphries’ outstanding books, ‘A History Of The Mind’, and ‘Seeing Red’.

    Enjoy!

  17. Pius Agius says:

    Hi Jason,

    I have been reading your recent comments about a robot doing something. Most robots these days, if they can be called robots, are designed with a specific task in the mind of the designer.

    As far as I know the robot with the all purpose intelligence has yet to make its debut. David Heiserman wrote a series of wonderful books about thirty years ago. Before he went into the details of building actual machines he discussed his take on machine intelligence. I will not repeat it here but the gist of it was that robots built to do something are essentially slaves. Why can’t we build a machine to just be, I mean just to exist?

    I read Steve’s books and they are an excellent starting point. Steve thought long and hard about what he was doing with creatures and Lucy and it provoked a great deal of thought on my part.

    Before anyone starts on such a magical endeavour as building robots the why and how of what you are doing should be a forethought. It would lead to truly marvelous results I am most sure.

    Take Care ,

    Pius

  18. Jason says:

    Thanks all for the recommendations. I doubt I have the skill set to build a robot, But I do want to purse some of these ideas that Steve and others post along the idea of mind/body being dependent on each other for my next research project. Plus I have a TON of respect for Steve Grand’s work on the grounds that he is working as a Independent Scholar – to correspond, even for a moment here, is sort of like the old ‘Invisible College’ of the 1600’s.

    Just don’t tell him my MA is in theology. It’s our little secret, OK?

  19. Pius Agius says:

    Hi Jason,

    Mum is the word!! Yes Steve is quite brave because he does all this work by his lonesome. That BBC show ‘Battle of the Robots’ was where I first heard of Steve and his work with Lucy.

    It is encouraging to all of us who do work on our own to know we are not alone. I hope this makes some sense.

    Oh building robots is not really that hard and the fun of the process makes up for it.

    Take Care,

    Pius

    • stevegrand says:

      Hey guys, glad you’re chatting amongst yourselves! Pius is the guy to encourage you to build robots, Jason! Sorry I’ve not been in touch but I’m up to my eyeballs in Maxwell’s equations at the moment, researching a book. No brainpower left over…

  20. Jason says:

    Thanks to everyone. Thank you Steve for entertaining my first few posts and then letting the community take over as well. I look forward to hearing more and more about your work and please, continue to inspire all of Indie Scholars (and hold our feet to the fire of solid research!)

    Jason

  21. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your labor of love, “Growing up with Lucy”. Clearly it was a work close to your heart.

    Some parallel thoughts. I have noticed in my entrepeneurship, the sense of treating the company as my child. I’ve often thought of finding an only book on mothership, on which copyright has expired, and copying it, changing the words Mother to Entrepeneur or Designer, and child to business or project, and publishing it. I have grandious expectations of reception.

    Secondly, I was surpized by the striped areas in V2. I had come to very similar conclusions about removing rotation and scale from an artifact I’d noticed in my own vision. I see something like what is reported with migrane auras, but over the whole fovea as I concentrate on a fixed point. It appears as a centered cascading convergence of spiral lines, carving out shrinking, diamond-like pixels.

    I also noted the peaks in a square, triangle or other geometric object would be easy to pattern match if that scan pattern were applied.

    So we’ve arrived at the same place following differing biological clues. Feel free to contact me if this would be soemthing you’d like to discuss further.

  22. Just finished reading your book “Creation”, fascinating stuff and it has helped clarify in my mind what constitutes a lifeform. I am avidly researching artificial intelligence and I am wondering where did you get your education from in other words what other resources out there are worth taking a good hard look at. I am interested in trying my hand at writing some code similar to what you did with creatures but I am still a long way out. By the way your book was very good, thoroughly enjoyed it, I will be getting your other book, “Growing up with Lucy” shortly. Thank-you for all of your great work.

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Nathaniel,

      Thanks! :-) To be quite honest I got my education from thinking and observing. I must have absorbed a lot of information from books, etc. but generally by osmosis or when I needed to know something specific. I taught myself to program before there were any computer books, and I rely on school biology for my only formal education in that area. So it’s hard for me to recommend resources to people because I didn’t use any that were specifically designed for this field. You might like to join the Biota community (www.biota.org) – they’ll expose you to a lot of the concepts and can probably recommend some useful materials. Good luck and have fun!

      – Steve

  23. Alon says:

    Hi Steve,
    Remember me? http://stevegrand.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/the-most-beautiful-train-wreck-i-ever-saw/

    Just wanted to let you know that I still believe in you. You’re one of my few living role models, and I still see you having an even more successful future in the years to come.
    I should also let you know that I continue to enjoy all the photos you put in your blog posts; they always capture the beauty of our universe.

    Wish you would blog more, though. I fee like you’re slowly drifting away from the spotlight, which is no fun for any of us, IMO.
    (And I don’t know why your most recent blog post doesn’t allow me to post any comments on there… It’s as if you don’t _want_ any comments! :)

    Anyway, can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us. Wishing you the best.

  24. Shaun says:

    Steve, you’re a really interesting person and I think, a lot like Rodney Brooks. I think I’ve finally figured out exactly what it is you’ve created, and I don’t think it’s a mind… not yet anyway. I hope you will hear me out for a second. I think what you’ve created is a digital central nervous system, in a way. Similar to beam robotics… but of a different structure that works better simulated. At this moment I suspect you’re probably thinking that you’ve created components such as memory that don’t exist within a central nervous system… but what if they do? What if everything you’ve created is the predecessor to a digital central nervous system.
    This is just a thought… I want you to take a moment to doubt yourself as Galileo would… to reflect upon the work of Marvin Minsky, specifically in beam robotics. And to reflect upon what that means.

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Shaun,

      Rod and I have a lot in common, but also some significant differences. I know I haven’t built anything like a mind yet. However if you’re saying what I think you’re saying then I disagree about the relationship with BEAM robotics. I’m not sure if you’re talking about my Creatures game or Lucy, but if Lucy then my assertion is that the mammalian brain (or rather the more recently evolved parts) are different in several fundamental ways from the kind of ad-hoc circuitry in BEAM or, to a lesser degree, from the modular subsumption approach that Rod pioneered. The thalamocortical system of the brain is a set of massively parallel computational units with a remarkably consistent architecture, yet which can wire themselves up through exposure to environmental regularities so that they perform apparently very different tasks (so there must be a level of description at which these are the same task). This is a very different computational approach from the lower nervous system in the brainstem and periphery, imho. But trust me, I doubt myself all the time!

  25. Gerjan says:

    Hey Steve,

    I just read this article and thought you must have some insights in the matter. Maybe you already read it, but just in case;

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627542.000-picking-our-brains-can-we-make-a-conscious-machine.html

    • stevegrand says:

      Thanks! No, I hadn’t seen it, but I know Owen well (we used to work together) and I’ve met Stan. Surprising that Stan’s IDA is in the list, really. I don’t mean to criticize anyone’s work, but I think there is a danger that the problem of machine consciousness will end up being “solved” simply by demeaning the term “conscious” until it gets trivialized enough to achieve, rather than by making robots complex and neurologically justifiable enough.

  26. Gerjan says:

    A very good point. I’m currently reading Love+Sex_With_Robots by David Levy and he talks about love in robots as if it could be programmed into them. He claims that if the emotion the robot is displaying is indistinguishable from the real thing, then we might as well accept it as being real.
    I believe that the model you were going for with Lucy is the way to go and that emotions and consciousness should be emergent.
    It’s probably none of my business, but are you still doing any work in that direction?

  27. Edward says:

    Hi Steve,

    Just finished reading “Creation” and I must say it has been the most enlightening book I’ve read in my life, and it touches many of the right spots on questions I’ve always had in my fascination with creating artificial life.

    Got the book only recently, but have been a “Creatures” fan since I was a kid drawn to the term “digital life” on the box, and played it straight for 5 yrs, longest I ever played/tinkered with something.

    Wish you all the best, and thanks for all the work you have done. =)

  28. Zach Wilson says:

    Hey Steve,

    I finished Creation this weekend and I’ve powered through about half of Growing Up With Lucy in the last 24 hours or so, and I have to say, this is really inspiring stuff.

    I played Creatures extensively as a kid — indeed, I feel as though it has heavily influenced my interest in artificial intelligence, and is probably the number one reason I’m pursuing a Master’s degree right now with my concentration in AI.

    I’m, alas, hip-deep in academia, but your approach interests me greatly: so much so, that I’m contemplating pursuing a Ph.D. program in computational neurology, instead of continuing in computer science.

    Anyway, just thought I’d drop a note and let you know that your work has been a great inspiration to me, both in the imagination of my youth and the studies of my adulthood. Thank you!

    • stevegrand says:

      Why thank you Zach! Kind of you to drop by and say.

      The world needs more computational neuroscientists, I think. But there’s more money in comp. sci. ;-)

      • Zach Wilson says:

        So true! I dove back into school on account of “this economy,” though…and I figure, if I can’t get a job, the amount the jobs pay is irrelevant and I should do whatever I want!

      • stevegrand says:

        Very sound reasoning! :-) The worst way for life to end is with regret on your lips. After all, none of us has a clue how the brain works, so there’s plenty of opportunity to make a real contribution (some will protest at that, but I challenge them to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and draw a design that could actually be built). Go for it!

  29. sue says:

    Sorry to use this posting, but I am trying to contact you to use a photograph of Lucy in a book.

  30. Hi Mr. Grand.

    I have re-read your book Creation: … recently and all I can say is *magnificent*. It is the most practically applicable design so far, and what I especially like about the book is that you give us diagrams and blueprints for mind building, not just a bunch of high level statements without implementation. Also, you provide results.

    When my time permits, I hope to build a physical automaton along those lines that you have presented.

    Another Brit (William Ross Ashby) had a similar line of reasoning like you. His digital archive is here (http://www.rossashby.info/index.html) with his Design for a Brain book freely available.

    Another trail that you might want to check out:
    Darwin series of autonomous vehicles with large neural nets (papers in pdf format): http://vesicle.nsi.edu/nomad/pubs.html and http://vesicle.nsi.edu/nomad/index.html

    Now for one critical line:
    You are wasting your time creating artificial worlds. Real world is much more complicated than anything you can realistically simulate on a machine. Therefore, you need a robot that can explore the real world and learn as we do. In this way, you are left with more manageable task of building a nervous system, not nervous system AND everything else in the world.

    Above doesn’t apply for your games; this is just a remark if you are tempted to create fully intelligent robots running a computer sim only.

    All in all, keep up the good work.

    • stevegrand says:

      Very nice to be in the same sentence as Ross Ashby! :-)

      I agree completely with what you say about simulated versus real worlds. I have built a few robots for that very reason. In fact my second book is about one of them (Lucy). Working in the real world also prevents you from cheating, which is easy, tempting and pretty much compulsory in a virtual world. On the other hand, of course, with robots you’re faced with the full magnitidfe of the problem. If you wanted a robot you can play chess with, only 1% of the effort need go into getting it to understand chess, while 99% needs to be spent on the ability to recognize the pieces and be able to move them without knocking them over! So it can be good to work in both domains, according to circumstances.

      But for now I’m back in virtual reality, because I can’t make a living building robots!

  31. Hi Steve,

    I just bought a copy of your book, Growing Up With Lucy from Amazon.com and am looking forward to reading it. Mine was printing in 2004 by Phoenix and has a misprinted section from pages 169 to 216 where the pages are blank, or show a couple of duplicate pages from 227-230 but are print half sideways and shows a couple of duplicate pages from the index. Rather than return to the book where I purchased it (I rather like the odd misprinting) I was wondering if you might perhaps have those missing pages avaliable in Word Doc or similary format?

    Thank you Steve.
    -Justin Ratliff (weyoun7ster@gmail.com

  32. Amelia says:

    Hi Steve,

    So I ran across your post from back in November about the proposed fertilized egg law in Mississippi – I am looking for references to use in my paper and presentation for my college English class, Literature and Medicine. As part of a group examining the promise and peril of stem cell research, I am looking for references to use. I’ve chosen the sub-topic of stem cells in literature. I’m curious if you might have made any references of that nature in your book Creation: Life and how to make it, or even if you have any suggestions on the matter. I mostly intended to focus on science fiction novels, movies, and the like, but I think a quote from books such as yours could really help tie things together. Regardless, it sounds like a fascinating book and I definitely plan to read it (In my free time between Anatomy, Physics, English and work – ha!).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
    ~Amelia (smith.4597@osu.edu)

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Amelia,

      Excellent idea! I’m afraid there’s nothing about stem cells in my book and I don’t really have much in the way of connections in that area. I’m occasionally worth a quote on things connected to the meaning of life, though, so I may have the odd word or two (usually very odd) that can help tie ideas together. ;-) My friend Jane Prophet is an artist who works on the boundary between art and science, and she worked with a stem cell researcher a few years ago. It’s visual art not literature, but both workers inspired each other, so maybe there’s something in Jane’s work that would interest you? See http://www.janeprophet.com/writing/by-jane-prophet/ and http://www.janeprophet.com/old-website/cell.html

      Good luck with the project – it looks like a great topic. Report back!

      – Steve

  33. David Barnes says:

    Hi Steve

    I read both your books a few years ago, and very much appreciate your attempts to simulate a whole lifeform in an environment. I too am convinced that creating true intelligence has to involve lots of learning, preferably starting with very little, and working up from there through a whole creature engaging with a whole environment.
    My interest is in what mind is – to which the quick answer is “intelligence”. The longer answer, which I think is very relevant to your work, is in my recently published book “A Universal Theory Of Mind: Active-Perception”. Take a look at my publisher’s website http://www.defactopress.com/A-Universal-Theory-Of-Mind-Active-Perception.html
    for more information, and let me know if I can send you a copy.

    David Barnes

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi David, your book sounds very interesting! Lots of words that appeal to me, plus some big claims. I’d be interested in reading it, yes. Any chance of a review copy? My email is my first name at cyberlife-research dot com.

  34. mrhaineux says:

    Steve, what’s the difference between the hardcover and paperback versions of your books? Looks like there was a bit of time between the hardcover and paperback of “Creation,” so I wonder if there’s been important revisions.

    • stevegrand says:

      Nah, the only difference is stiffer cardboard! Like most publishers, W&N staggered the release to encourage people to buy the more profitable hardback. At least one billionaire bought it, so I guess that strategy paid off… ;-)

  35. Lucas says:

    Hi Steve. What do you think about the Lego NXT 2.0 robotics kit?

    • stevegrand says:

      Hi Lucas! Long time no see. I don’t think I’ve seen NXT 2.0, only the original one. It’s not really my kind of robotics, so it’s hard to say. If every Lego brick was an active device (as I discussed with Lego when I went there years ago) then THAT would be my kind of robotics, but a central controller with limited sensors and only a few motor channels isn’t the kind of thing I have any uses for myself, so I don’t have much insight into how good it is from a hobbyist perspective. What do you think yourself? Considering buying one?

  36. Lucas says:

    Hi thanks for the reply! I am looking for a decent robotics kit that I can use for fun. I saw a lego nxt 2.0 solve a rubics cube and also another one that played tictactoe. Also a chess playing
    lego robot. I was amazed by the possibilities! Thats why I thought lego. Do you have any suggestions as to what robotics kit is good or bad…?

  37. Lucas says:

    Do you know anything about the Parallax Boebot? Good or bad?

    • stevegrand says:

      My ex-wife used to have one and she liked it, but I’ve not used it myself – I’ve never used any robot kits, so I’m the wrong person to ask. But the person behind the Boebot sounds like a nice guy.

  38. Lucas says:

    Great thanks for the info!

  39. Lucas says:

    I was so amazed by that Lego robot playing chess! When is Gandroids coming out by the way?

  40. Lucas says:

    You’re not suggesting that I get the boe bot instead are you? Lol.

  41. Lucas says:

    By the way, What was the first robot you ever made?

  42. jacobchrist says:

    I wish your book, Creation, was available as an Audible book or at least on Kindle.

    Jacob

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