artificial life

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Karl Sims is a digital media artist, computer graphics research scientist, and software entrepreneur. His influential artificial life computer animations, like this one from 1994, were programmed as virtual creatures that simulated evolution through genetic algorithms:

This video shows results from a research project involving simulated Darwinian evolutions of virtual block creatures. A population of several hundred creatures is created within a supercomputer, and each creature is tested for their ability to perform a given task, such the ability to swim in a simulated water environment. Those that are most successful survive, and their virtual genes containing coded instructions for their growth, are copied, combined, and mutated to make offspring for a new population. The new creatures are again tested, and some may be improvements on their parents. As this cycle of variation and selection continues, creatures with more and more successful behaviors can emerge.

The creatures shown are results from many independent simulations in which they were selected for swimming, walking, jumping, following, and competing for control of a green cube.

Thanks, @benjohnbarnes.