Conway’s Life aka the Game of Life was developed by mathematician John Horton Conway.
Life first appeared in Scientific American in 1970.
One “played” Life on graph paper. Later, Life moved to computer printers and then computer screens.
The “game” is simple.
The universe of the Game of Life consists of a grid of square cells.
Each cell has two possible states: alive or dead.
The state of each cell is governed by the states of its neighboring cells. Counting vertical, horizontal and diagonal neighbors, each cell has 8 neighbors.
Each generation, a cell looks at its neighbors and follows these rules:
- Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies, as if from loneliness.
- Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives.
- Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies from overcrowding.
- Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors comes to life, like a zombie that needs to eat exactly three brains.
Conway’s Life is extremely sensitive to initial conditions.
In fact, the future of any particular arrangement of live and dead cells is as fated as a Greek tragedy.
Each generation depends on the states of the cells that preceded it.
Some Life patterns die out, some travel, some oscillate, like the “pulsar” above.
Some patterns spawn traveling clusters, an initial arrangement of cells is called a “gun.”
Life has interesting philosophical implications.
For example, we have a sensation of free will, the feeling that whatever the initial conditions we are master’s of our fate. But are we really so different?
Given the nature of gravity, light, elements like hydrogen and carbon, was life in the Universe, including us, fated by initial conditions?
Assuming for the moment that we are automotons responding only to the “rules” of the Universe, ask yourself this: Are you a pulsar? A gun? A dead end?
Or unlike atoms and stars, are humans gifted with a power to escape the mere laws of physics? If so, from where to we get this power? Or was it also a fated emergent property of matter?