Digital Biota II
Preliminary Call for Participation
Many of the more interesting properties of living systems are emergent phenomena, found only in complete organisms or communities of those organisms, not in their isolated components. Both Science and Technology therefore stand to benefit greatly from attempts to synthesise complete creatures and ecosystems of creatures. This conference focuses on the simulation of complete, multi-functional, non-trivial organisms, whose behaviour is an emergent consequence of the interactions of biologically plausible building blocks.

Complete - The emphasis is on whole organisms (animats), rather than isolated aspects of living systems like genetic algorithms.
Multi-functional - Rather than stylised, ad hoc creatures designed to test a single hypothesis or demonstrate a single behaviour, we would like to focus on synthetic creatures that can perform multiple tasks and balance conflicting needs.
Non-trivial - Rather than animats controlled by simple "invertebrate" nervous systems, we welcome participants interested in more complex "cognitive" creatures.
Biologically plausible - Instead of behaviour driven by rules or algorithms, the focus is on emergent behaviour resulting from the interactions between aggregated biological structures such as neurones, biochemicals and genes, particularly in combination.

This conference invites participation from people who work on or are interested in such "grand syntheses." The intention is to gather specialists in relevant areas who also have a background in, or penchant for, holistic approaches. Some questions for discussion are:

How do we go about constructing complete, intelligent artificial life forms? What should their brains be like, or their physiological systems?

What is the current state of the art?
What philosophical guidelines need to be adhered to?
What kinds of computational framework are necessary?
How much can we learn from the evolutionary history of natural life forms?
What can the study of synthetic life forms feed back into the natural sciences?
What are the practical, social and ethical implications of this research?

The first conference in this series was held in Banff, Canada in 1997, drawing participants from such diverse fields as Palaeontology, 3D Computer Graphics, Evolutionary Art and Artificial Intelligence. Last year's topics revolved around the following questions: 1) "What does the future hold for Earth's biota and will we survive our own "great experiment" with the biosphere?" 2) "In our efforts to model biological processes in software, some claim that we will initiate a 'digital Cambrian explosion' of information-based life forms inhabiting the Earth's collective compute spaces. If this occurs, what forms and direction will opportunistic digital biota take, and what will be the consequences for humanity?"

This year, the activity takes a more practical stance and looks to the near future. Rather than simply assume this process will occur spontaneously, we hope to lay out a road map for how to make it occur. Mankind is on the verge of being able to create systems worthy of description as "living things" - Digital Biota 2 is all about how to do it.

Relevant topics

Artificial evolution of whole agents
Artificial biochemistry and physiology
Sensors and effectors
Biologically inspired robotics
Biologically inspired neural networks
Synthetic ecology
Social behaviour, communication and co-operative learning
The evolution of natural complexity
Distributed, physics-based virtual environments
Morphogenetic processes
Detailed physiological modelling of natural species


Printable version of this website
call for participation
further information

Digital Biota 2 is sponsored by

CyberLife Technology

The Contact Consortium