(extracted from: “Open Problems in Artificial Life” Mark A. Bedau, John S. McCaskill, Norman H. Packard, Steen Rasmussen, Chris Adami, David G. Green, Takashi Ikegami, Kunihiko Kaneko, Thomas S. Ray., Artificial Life 6 (2000), 363-376)

The following is a structured list of key open problems in artificial life. Some goals involve practical synthesis; others involve theoretical analysis. The aim is not necessarily to make each problem wholly independent of the others; some problems overlap or complement others, which may help to triangulate the deeper issues. The challenges are classified under three broad issues: the transition to life, the evolutionary potential of life, and the relation between life and mind and culture. The challenges falling under the third issue are necessarily more speculative and openended, so this whole list may best be viewed as ten challenges plus four areas of investigation. Moreover, some of the questions about mind and culture interweave scientific and nonscientific issues. Those issues are still important, though, not least because addressing them is probably the best way to clarify what in this area can be known scientifically.

  • A. How does life arise from the nonliving?
    • 1. Generate a molecular proto-organism in vitro.
    • 2. Achieve the transition to life in an artificial chemistry in silico.
    • 3. Determine whether fundamentally novel living organizations can exist.
    • 4. Simulate a unicellular organism over its entire lifecycle.
    • 5. Explain how rules and symbols are generated from physical dynamics in living systems.
  • B. What are the potentials and limits of living systems?
    • 6. Determine what is inevitable in the open-ended evolution of life.
    • 7. Determine minimal conditions for evolutionary transitions from specific to generic response systems.
    • 8. Create a formal framework for synthesizing dynamical hierarchies at all scales.
    • 9. Determine the predictability of evolutionary consequences of manipulating organisms and ecosystems.
    • 10. Develop a theory of information processing, information flow, and information generation for evolving systems.
  • C. How is life related to mind, machines, and culture?
    • 11. Demonstrate the emergence of intelligence and mind in an artificial living system.
    • 12. Evaluate the influence of machines on the next major evolutionary transition of life.
    • 13. Provide a quantitative model of the interplay between cultural and biological evolution.
    • 14. Establish ethical principles for artificial life.

This list of challenges could be extended, of course. Some fundamental questions are missing, the most notable being the nature of life itself. This question is presupposed by a number of the problems listed, however, and answering any problem will necessarily involve resolving anything it presupposes. Stating each challenge precisely enough that progress toward its solution can be unambiguously measured is often beyond our grasp.

However, where ambiguity remains, the discussion and evaluation of potential solutions can significantly clarify the challenge and contribute toward its eventual solution, in part by identifying and solving precise subproblems of those challenges. The authors are also aware that this list under-represents some areas in which artificial life plays a significant role, such as robotics, games, and art. In addition to promoting work on the issues listed here, the authors seek to prompt others to identify and publicize additional fundamental challenges. Discussion about whether to add new challenges to the list will itself facilitate progress throughout the field and we purposefully avoid the bias that would be introduced by citing what we think is the most important work on each topic.

  • open_problems_in_alife.txt
  • Last modified: 2007-06-13 09:40
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