Artificial life (ALife) research is not only about the production of knowledge, but is also a source of compelling and meaningful stories and narratives, especially now when they are needed most. Such power, so to speak, emerges from its own foundations as a discipline. It was Chris Langton in 1987 who said that “By extending the horizons of empirical research in biology beyond the territory currently circumscribed by life-as-we-know-it, the study of Artificial Life gives us access to the do- main of life-as-it-could-be]. The very notion of life-as-it-could-be opened up many possibilities to explore, and released the study of life from its material and our cognitive constraints. The study of life did not have to be limited to carbon-based entities, DNA or proteins. It could also be about general and universal processes that could be implemented and realized in multiple forms. Moreover, while ALife was about biology at the beginning, its rationale and methods are now shared by many other domains, including chemistry, engineering, and the social sciences. In other words, the power to envision and synthesize “what is possible” beyond “what is” has transcended disciplinary boundaries. It also produces the material for the exploration of narratives about how things can be in principle and not only about their current state of being.
The Artificial Life Conference 2016 was dedicated to the special theme of ALife and Society. The guiding question for the conference was How can the synthetic study of living systems contribute to societies: scientifically, technically, and culturally?
Siqueiros-García, J. M., Froese, T., Gershenson, C., Aguilar, W., Sayama, H., and Izquierdo, E. (2018). ALife and society: Editorial introduction to the Artificial Life Conference 2016 Special Issue. Artificial Life, Early Access
See Also: Special Issue articles on Early Access: https://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/artl/0/0