Artificial Life: Synthetic Versus Virtual

Harnad, Stevan (1993) Artificial Life: Synthetic Versus Virtual. [Journal (Paginated)]

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Artificial life can take two forms: synthetic and virtual. In principle, the materials and properties of synthetic living systems could differ radically from those of natural living systems yet still resemble them enough to be really alive if they are grounded in the relevant causal interactions with the real world. Virtual (purely computational) "living" systems, in contrast, are just ungrounded symbol systems that are systematically interpretable as if they were alive; in reality they are no more alive than a virtual furnace is hot. Virtual systems are better viewed as "symbolic oracles" that can be used (interpreted) to predict and explain real systems, but not to instantiate them. The vitalistic overinterpretation of virtual life is related to the animistic overinterpretation of virtual minds and is probably based on an implicit (and possibly erroneous) intuition that living things have actual or potential mental lives.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:Artificial life, synthetic life, virtual life, mind/body problem, Searle's Chinese room, computationalism, symbol grounding, Turing test
Subjects:Computer Science > Artificial Intelligence
Computer Science > Robotics
Philosophy > Philosophy of Mind
ID Code:1587
Deposited By: Harnad, Stevan
Deposited On:18 Jun 2001
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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