One important aspect of Complexity Science is the idea of “emergence” or “self-organization,” where simple rules or circumstances lead to events that are not scripted. In other words, where things seem to take on “a life of their own.” The iOS Apps Life Game Touch and LifeGameHD speeder do a good job of demonstrating the cellular automation “game,” Conway’s Game of Life.
What is Conway’s Game of Life?
The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a cellular automaton devised by the British mathematician John Horton Conway in 1970. The “game” is an array of cells that can be either alive or dead. Each step, each cell follows simple rules to determine if it should be born, die, or stay alive. Over time (over steps), the result is something that wriggles around and has “multi-cellular” entities that take on predictable shapes and move around as if they are alive!
In the animated GIF to the left demonstrates a “gun” that produces one of the predictable “life forms” known as a “glider.” This is a great example of an emergent phenomenon. Only the two 2×2 blocks and the rule set were put in place by the creator of this demonstration. It shows how the rules of a universe and interactions between extremely simple agents can produce life.
Life Game Touch
NEXT-SYSTEM CO., LTD’s Life Game Touch is a free iOS App with a simple interface. In addition to watching the game play out, you can also modify the default rules. It is simple and straight-forward. There are no Ads in this app.
For more control over the game and a more visually-stunning presentation, Fumitake Kume’s LifeGameHD speeder gives you the ability to seed the game with your finger (by tapping cells to make them alive or dead) or by data file. You can change the size of the board and also modify the rules. Although not free, if you want a bit of creative or destructive control and a pleasing display, this App is superior to Life Game Touch. This App is currently $2.99 and does not display Ads.
Other things to check out
- A similar concept of linear cellular automation is also discussed in the article Iterating Determinant Functions here on Economplex. It’s how we created our logo!
- Genetic Galaxy Defender is a free web-browser game (that you can actually play) right here on Economplex that demonstrates the Genetic Algorithm.
Citations to this discussion:
- Gardner, Martin, Mathematical Games – The fantastic combinations of John Conway’s new solitaire game “life”, Scientific American, 223. pp. 120–123., October 1970
- Conway’s Game of Life, Wikipedia, 15 February 2015