Blowing my own trumpet

Okay, try not to cringe, but I really need your help. In the interests of full disclosure, that means money. Or if not money then influence. Please nicely.

I’ll just hit you with the funding pitch right off the bat. There’s a fancy widget I’m supposed to be able to embed in my blog but it doesn’t work in this theme, so here instead is a good old-fashioned hyperlink. Click on the image to take you to Kickstarter.

This is the first chance I’ve had to blog about it, because it’s taken off a lot more quickly than I expected and I’ve had a lot of people to thank and queries to field! It’s only the end of Day Two as I write this and the total is already over $11,000, much to my amazement and thanks especially to some extremely generous donors. I think there’s a real chance we can make this happen, with your help. Which is just as well, because I’ve almost completely used up my own resources after all these years of self-funded research and this is the only way I can continue with my work.

If you’ve already pledged then thank you SO MUCH! I really, really appreciate it. If you haven’t and you’d like to then that’s fantastic. My Creatures game inspired quite a lot of people to think differently about life, and even caused a number of them to take up scientific careers. I’m pretty sure this game will do the same, so it’s in a good cause as well as hopefully being fun. If you aren’t in a position to pledge then I quite understand – I’m not either! – but if you can help spread the word by tweeting, blogging, facebooking or pinning notices to telegraph poles then I really appreciate that too. The wider the news spreads, the more chance I have. Thank you.

Oh, and I see 600 people visited my blog today, which is a fair bit higher than usual, so if you came here via Kickstarter then I’m delighted to see you. I hope you’ll come back! :-)

Incidentally, earlier posts about the design of the artificial brain for this project can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and here. After that I went a bit quiet because I got stuck on a problem that was too complex even to tell you about. But I think I have the answer to that now. After months of banging my head against the wall it just came to me – poof! – while I was driving through the desert thinking about something else. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

[Edit: I fixed the links - whoops.]

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About stevegrand
I'm an independent AI and artificial life researcher, interested in oodles and oodles of things but especially the brain. And chocolate. I like chocolate too.

25 Responses to Blowing my own trumpet

  1. zeek says:

    Great to see a nice ‘kickstart’ to the kickstarter project so far, you should consider submitting it to a few major gaming sites to help spread the word! RockPaperShotgun are great for the PC market and some very intelligent fellows who might appreciate it!

  2. Don says:

    Over $16k already, looks like its well on its way, *fingers crossed* :)

    Is Grandroids a working title or the final name btw? :)

    • stevegrand says:

      Hey Donna,

      Fingers crossed indeed! I’m thinking of Grandroids as a brand name – kind of the name of my pet supply company. Not sure what to call the actual game yet, because I don’t know what the scenario will turn out to be. I just had to put something for the name of the project.

    • Dranorter says:

      Grandroids has a grandmotherly-robot ring to it. :P I do think your name is charismatic and should be used for effect, but you’ll probably want a different name for the game. Similarly, you will probably have to spend a little time worrying about making the a-life as appealing as Norns were. I guess it all depends on how much you want to worry about marketing-type concerns. For most of your fans there are more important things.

      • stevegrand says:

        You wouldn’t believe how much time it took to decide what norns looked like! As for any team project, everyone had completely different mental images. I originally had them looking rather like chickens, for heaven’s sake! I like the way birds’ legs and heads move and it gave them a perky and inquisitive look, although I guess it wouldn’t have worked. Then our art director fancied really soft, unicorn-like creatures and I could just about get my head around that. There was a dark, moody phase, and a bunch of Disney people had a go. They ended up pretty Disneyesque, and I can’t say I was enthralled by them, but heck, they were only about 64 pixels high, so what can you do?

        This time the key criterion is that their physiognomy actually has to work. They have to be balanced right, and have muscle weight in the right places, because it’s all physics-based. Even the quadruped I’ve been experimenting with is incredibly unstable when moving. I think I know roughly what I want them to look like, but I haven’t got round to that stage yet. And there’ll be multiple species eventually, so people can go for what works for them.

      • Chani says:

        the scientist in me is happy to hear you’ll make it physics based. :)
        the little girl in me is sad that they won’t have cute anime eyes… :(

        ah well.. so long as they’re more expressive than c3 norns. I never could bond with those.
        ooh, will they have tails to wag? :)

      • stevegrand says:

        I know someone else who’ll want tails, as well. I’ll make sure at least one species has them – I’ve already tested the physics for tails. :-) And I’ll given them cute eyes, too, just not anime ones. I have ideas about what I want them to look like, but haven’t got round to thinking about the details yet.

      • Abram Demski says:

        Appearance: I actually like the sound of the chicken-shaped Norns. :) I’d like to put in a vote for dragon-like things, as well.

  3. Some of your brainstorm links appear to be broken, good sir.

  4. Chani says:

    and here I was thinking ‘oh, I’ll donate in april when I know my budget…’ — two days? wow. you’ll have all the money you need quite soon, I bet. :) :) it’s so nice to see that, ’cause we know you deserve it. :)

  5. Sean says:

    I wanted to thank you for everything you have done with the Creatures series and your continuing work. I have both your books and they are amazing.

    Creatures was very inspiring for me as a teenager. I am 23 now and part of my decision to study a degree in Environmental Science has been due to the effect the games have had on me. The thoughts that occured as part of playing the games. In all, I must have spent hundreds of hours playing Creatures 2, micro-managing the ecology and playing with all sorts of mods. I would be lying if I said it was the only thing that made me start thinking seriously about ecosystems, genectics, biology generally and finally wider sciences: but it was a huge influence. And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I have pledged $50 dollars to this. As I am a student I don’t have a lot of money at the moment. However, I would have given you more if I could afford it. I hope you can get the support you need to take this where you want it to go. Good luck, Steve.

    All the best,

    Sean.

    • Abram Demski says:

      Creatures had a profound effect on my life as well, though in my case it was part of what drove me towards the field of artificial intelligence. Making these games is really important! :) I especially appreciate the very natural feel– I mean just the appearance of the game, even if that may not seem like the most important aspect. The theme of intertwining nature and machine is important.

      • stevegrand says:

        Thanks Abram. I agree!

        And I’ll add dragons to my list – I know someone else who would like that too. My own preference is for something like an Orangutan (as you might guess). Hopefully I can get several species into the first release, but we’ll see. There’s a lot of ocean to cross first!

  6. Steve Grand, I was fortunate to get a copy of your book CREATION (09.04.2011), which was written about the time I wrote a script titled Soul. I got as far as page 5 when I realised two things: 1st that the author i was reading was human in the best sense of that word, and 2nd, that despite their excellent intelligence they failed understanding regards to the difference between what is Soul and what is Spirit. The distinction between the two is CREATION empowering where it concerns this system of things and any serious attempt to create a synthetic living being that perfectly matches divine (as natural) a living dying creature mustacknowledge/utilise both conditions else fail. It is true to say that the living dying body is enabled when the Soul is begird by Spirit. View a descriptive animation here
    <a href ="http://www.youtube.com/strongangelstar#p/u/3/u8e8Wso4NQg&quot;

    There too are related videos in respect of Spirit and Soul and also you will find a link to some writings on the BBC, which may be of interest to. I suggest them because I consider both your approach and your honesty with regards to Life and how to make it refreshingly interesting. You are considering things at least. For my part I have learnt that Spirit is very much a quantum field; while Soul is something I have accepted is of celestial origin existing without matter and dressed by light, else as here on earth dressed with [it]. Where Spirit can have a colourful spectrum, the Soul is entirely a colourless void; and seems in fact to be a spinning “molecule” type of structure which forms a ‘weird black hole’ that has portals connecting dimension to dimension, i.e. from the dimension it exists within into this dimension. It may be true to say Spirit is an extra-material energy while Soul is an ‘extra-photonic’ existence. To look at a Soul you see an orb that is dressed in light , the light being patterned much the way the skin is patterned and reminds one of the phrase “and his raiment was of light”. The Soul also has upon it facial features, which are linear like a caricature and give the first impression of an electrical socket in the wall such is the depth of darkness of what is otherwise the most beautiful geometry. I believe it is true to say the face is the geometry of God; identifier of universal life, being upon living Souls; and ‘reflected’ out of the material states of death and dying are likewise somehow reflections of this geometry.
    One more note here-in, although it is by no means all which I could make to you, both Spirit and Soul are somehow connected through Carbon, which originates in (the?) star. Together with the reference to Eve
    (a female being affected by a wave (the snake)) in genesis, consequently begetting a new line of men, and Carbon 12 (666) in the book of revelations, it is surely true ancient men understood that in the act of conception it is the female, who provides an egg comprising of a few carbon 12 atoms and who activates the Spirit within them(beast of the land) and The Male who introduces the Soul (beast of the sea) so that between them a living (from Life) and dying (from Death) animated form comes into being. The point being that the cyclic nature(s) of Carbon 12 particularly is of great importance to your quest should you wish to succeed. It is apparent that certain ancient scriptural sources of different regional origins, properly understood, have more to say on this subject and it may be that a new approach to understanding them would be useful.

    • Dranorter says:

      If anything Sir Grand will try to test those ideas- by creating life specifically without separate spirit and soul. As I understand, by statements made elsewhere on this blog, he wishes to prove them unnecessary. And at very least he will show specifically putting in a soul to be unnecessary.

      We will probably keep saying the eternal soul enters the body at birth (or conception) but we will say also the eternal soul enters the computer program when it is executed, and so we will gain a greater understanding.

      • Mellowcow says:

        I never unterstood the the concept of soul and spirit in non-religious terms to begin with.
        What exactly are their functions? I don’t see any indication they might actually exist, so I have to presume it’s a figment of imagination to once again explain what was/is inexplainable.
        I think that body and mind can only exist as a unity and the reason we find it so hard to believe is because most of the time we look at it the wrong way. It is our body which enabled our mind which in turn enables our conciousness, the ability to perceive and run this huge organism as one individual. It’s like layer upon layer to create one delicious layer cake. Suddenly your body doesn’t seem so trivial anymore, eh?

      • @Dramortar … Thank you for your response to my question put to Steve, you say “And at very least he will show specifically putting in a soul to be unnecessary.” … However if Steve does not know what a Soul is or for that matter what Spirit is then how is it possible for Steve to know if what he intends to knock up is with or without either?

        Also – things being as you say – the title of Steve’s book should be CREATIONLESS and not Creation, which requires Life and/or Death, because within those states only may consciousness, ‘flat’, ‘sharp’, or ‘natural’, be found to exist.

        The difference between athe most sophisticated computer and a single celled organism is consciousness, the former being bereft of [it] and the latter possessing exactly the same consciousness as you or I: such is Naturalness.

  7. Emily Doyle says:

    I feel like I sort of fell face-first into finding this blog, but I will try to keep what I am saying brief.

    Thank you for the creatures games you made, for the games you are trying to make now, and for all the work you did on AIs…I laid my hands on Creatures 3 when I was about five and it was a definitely turning point in my life. I’m 16 now, planning to take Biology for A-level.

    If I can, I’ll try to donate something to this project. It warms the heart, really.

  8. @Mellowcow
    Soul and Spirit, where it concerns our selves are fields of consciousness resultant of Carbon interactions at the centre of Stellar-bodies. They are in sense polar opposites and as such exist in entirely separate realms. Spirit consciousness remains within microcosmic Carbon structures (referred to Biblically as 666) and is a collective or shared field of consciousness) and may be described as a negative field. Soul is freed from the atomic structure and exists as individual fields of free consciousness traversing the galactic system and Soul may be described as bearing a positive field. We as carbon vessels are dependent upon the activation of the Spirit (within the first 6 Carbon particles of the egg) by the introduction of one Soul: a fertilised egg, in consciousness terms may be measured – in a simple sense – as a six (part) spirit begird one (part) soul intelligence.

    In effect the carbon constituents of our body provide the material which allow [their] residual fields of an ancient reaction to recombine and thus reconnected redefine universal intelligence: In short the reaction that once occurred within a star is reoccurring here on Earth with the aims of a) continuing the carbon reaction and b) furthering field information. I hope this helps.

  9. Matt Orsborn says:

    I came across a link to your blog while reading an article by Alex J. Champandard (aigamedev.com) and recognized your name immediately :) I too grew up with the Creatures series (I still have the original CD from Creatures 1!) and it heavily influenced my studies into programming to try and reproduce (excuse the pun) some of the AI you put forth.

    While I am positive that the concepts and ideas you have are light years beyond my own, I though I might share my spin on one aspect of AI in the hopes that it might spark a new idea for someone, somewhere:

    In the indie project I’m currently, slowly, working on (spare time is a precious thing, I envy your Kickstart) I struggled with an appropriate set of motives for my AI – both low-level like wolves and higher-level hominoids – and surprisingly had an epiphany of a religious nature. My primary motives are the seven deadly sins :) All the necessary motives for survival and reproduction are there, as well as a few extras to make things interesting (greed for example can apply to both the material (objects) and immaterial (knowledge)).

    Values range from -1 to 1 to give a bias between “sin” and “virtue” – in the case of Gluttony, -1 would be gorging oneself until death, whereas 1 would be starving until death. Somewhere in between would see either a fat, healthy or skinny AI. This may factor into how aesthetically appealing they would be to a member of the opposite sex (or perhaps even same sex, depending on the Lust value) – and they could then turn violent if advances are refused (dependant on Wrath). Truth be told, some of the simulations I’ve run allowed even the most horrid variants to survive many, many generations. The meek shall inherit the earth, perhaps, but not necessarily in many a virtual world :)

    Just my 2c, I shall return to happily awaiting your next post :)

    • stevegrand says:

      Thanks Matt. Drives based on the Deadly Sins is a neat idea! If only God had simply wired these things into us like that ;-) In my own project, things are at too low a level of description (i.e. the neurochemical level) for it to work, but I like the coherence of the idea!

      > I shall return to happily awaiting your next post

      Hmm, yes, I must get round to that! Work has got in the way lately and I have a bunch of enthusiastic kickstarter backers to think about first, but I’ve got seriously behind with blogging, facebook, etc. I swear the days have got shorter lately…

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