Jean-Claude Heudin

Artificial Life Publication date : January 3, 2008

From the Golem to Agent Smith in Matrix, the human spirit has always been intrigued by the possibility of creating artificial life — despite warnings against playing God. Yet in the era of robot-sapiens, of cyber-ghosts that haunt computer memories, and of artificially enhanced humans, aren't such warnings outmoded? It has become increasingly common for children to train “dogs” and play “football” on their computer screens. Shouldn't we lose our fear of artificial life? And can humans create artefacts that are truly alive?

In this book, a scientist who is directly involved in the latest research on artificial life examines these questions and casts a new light on a fascinating subject. He shows how artificial life evolved along with the technology that served to create it. But he goes beyond the technological aspect and addresses literary, artistic, cinematic and more recent multimedia applications.

The first part of the book begins with the first Palaeolithic paintings and ends in the early 1980s with the decline of traditional artificial intelligence and of the robots based on it. The second part, which examines current trends, begins with the development of networks and the cyberpunk movement and takes us up the present. The world of artificial life is now primarily that of cyberspace, virtual reality, video games and countless other developments resulting from the entertainment industry. The third and last part, which outlines the future of artificial life in the long term, examines not only the scientific and technical challenges but also the cultural and ethical ones.

Could the future of humanity lie in these multiple aspects of artificial life?

By taking us from the origins of robotics to virtual worlds, this book offers a wide-ranging history that reconciles technical developments with the imagination. The clear presentation makes the latest research, at the crossroads of biology and artificial intelligence, accessible to the general reader.

Are the gaming and multimedia industries simply part of the world of entertainment or do they announce our future relationship with the world, with others and with ourselves? An eminent specialist examines these vital contemporary issues.

After working for ten years in electronics and telecommunications, Jean-Claude Heudin, an expert in artificial intelligence, has been named Professor and Director of the research laboratory of the International Multimedia Institute at the Léonard de Vinci university section (La Défense, Paris).