6 de setembro de 2009

Vida artificial

Resumo da conferência do Doutor Luis Correia a ser apresentada no Congresso sobre o Impacto de Darwin, na Faculdade de Filosofia de Braga (10-12 de Setembro)

From natural to artificial life

Living organisms have long since been a source of inspiration for humans to build artifacts mimicking their behaviour. Usually models used are quite simple by comparison to their natural sources of inspiration. However, on computers, we have the freedom to test approaches both realistic and outright speculative, from the biological point of view.
This talk will cover several Artificial Life (ALife) models and their application areas. On the one hand we have models that are currently used as tools in engineering, especially for optimisation, and on the other hand we have environments and models that exhibit properties alike those observed in bio-organisms, that are useful to study and develop biological theories. Therefore, the talk will describe computer based models, such as artificial neural networks, evolutionary algorithms, artificial immune systems, swarm based algorithms and artificial life environments and autonomous robots in the perspective of artificial beings. A brief reference to wet ALife, meaning biochemistry research to build artificial cells, will complete this review.
Bridges to other related areas will also be explored. In particular, Artificial Life can also be seen as a field intending to achieve artificial intelligence through a bottom-up constructive process, trying to mimic natural evolution. This approach is an alternative to the historical Artificial Intelligence approach that tries to analytically build intelligent systems from composition of sub-systems with specific functionalities. In any case results achieved so far are extremely limited by comparison to their natural counterparts.
A different approach has been pursued in developing auxiliary elements for humans, namely intelligent prosthetics. There are quite useful devices currently, both in perception as well as in actuation helpers. For a long term future, we may envisage a convergence between the construction of an artificial being and the composition of a bionic human. The idea of whether artificial beings will ever surpass their natural counterparts may just be leaving the realm of science fiction, and becoming an open and interesting field for debate, raising important philosophical issues.

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Emmeche, C., The Garden in the Machine: The Emerging Science of Artificial Life. Princeton University Press, 1994.
Searle, J.R., Minds, Brains and Science. Harvard University Press, 1986.