Man Who Would Be God: Giving Robots Life

From: John Thomas (
Date: Sat Feb 02 2002 - 08:22:03 MST

Man Who Would Be God: Giving Robots Life


HIPHAM, England - Steve Grand, maverick artificial-life expert and
designer of the breathtakingly innovative computer game Creatures, is
not one to shrink from brazen pronouncements. "I am an aspiring
latter-day Baron Frankenstein," is how Mr. Grand describes himself in
his recent book, "Creation: Life and How to Make It" (Harvard
University Press, $26).

He makes an even bolder claim for Creatures, in which he created a
new race of cyberanimals who can learn, adapt and evolve in ways that
have proved surprising even to him.

"A game it might have been, but if you'll forgive the staggering lack
of modesty this implies, Creatures was probably the closest thing
there has been to a new form of life on this planet in four billion
years," Mr. Grand writes. "These creatures probably still represent
the state of the art in synthetic life forms."

He is now trying to surpass himself by searching for the Holy Grail
of artificial intelligence, a way to build a robot that thinks, feels
and learns. He has stiff competition from other labs around the
world, but among those who are rooting for him is the biologist
Richard Dawkins.

"Steve Grand is the creator of what I think is the nearest approach
to artificial life so far," Mr. Dawkins has said. Speaking of Mr.
Grand's latest endeavor, what is known as the Lucy project, he told
The Sunday Times: "With his record, if anyone could pull off such a
spectacular coup, it would be him."

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