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[surrogate activity] conway's life

offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-10 11:18 [#02514929]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

META_FILTR ~ some dumb smarty made a digital clock
out of Conway's Game of Life and you can run it yourself if
you actually follow the instructions

me being me, i don't just click "run." i give it the
once-over first.

it is at once alien and familiar -- if you've taken courses
in computer engineering (who hasn't?), then it's easy to
recognize the various sections. from top to bottom: timing,
logic, output.

the middle/logic section is obvious, because it looks like
punch cards with some data punched in. if you know
electrical engineering (who doesn't?), then it's easy to
recognize this section as equivalent to a 4026
driving a real-life LED clock.

then, though, i am lost: the bottom/output stage is
obviously a bunch of little line-generators, alright, that's
clear enough... then, yes some unfathomable contraptions to
turn the lines on and off. how do those work? i am

what's left? timers... the timers up atop spout out blobs
that poke the middle/logic layer, and the middle/logic layer
sends out blobs to switch line segments on or off. sorted.

i press "run," and watch raptly to see if my hunches are
confirmed. they are. i watch the pulse apporach the
middle/logic, and see it react; send out changes to the
display... but i have no idea how those line-generators
work. how the timers... time. it's beautiful to me that i
can understand exactly how this thing works, yet still be so
utterly clueless. it actually made me cry, in the same way
snowfall will make me cry. it's snowing outside now,

in any case, i am nervous. i could get addicted to this. i
am immediately full of ideas that would take me weeks or
months to pull off. this could utterly ruin my life. thanks,
conway. thanks, metafilter. thanks, internet


offline Hyperflake from Wirral (United Kingdom) on 2017-03-10 11:32 [#02514931]
Points: 8843 Status: Addict

fucking hell thats amazing


offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-10 11:33 [#02514932]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

post II ~ context

i know a bit about the history of the game. the race to
create the first "glider gun," in particular. one of my
favorite books is "hackers" by steven levy. in my early
teens, i read that book over and over and over. it was a
surrogate activity in and of itself. i've gone ahead and
extracted the amazing chapter from the book about conway's
game of life:



offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-10 11:43 [#02514933]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

never mind. my computer tries to shit itself when i try to
paste the whole chapter. here's the whole book:

chapter seven starts on page 110.


offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-10 11:46 [#02514934]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

i'll excereptppet abbbitbyte

Gosper wondered what might happen if two shuttles bounced
off each other, and figured that there were between two and
three hundred possibilities. He tried out each one, and
eventually came across a pattern that actually threw off
gliders. It would move across the screen like a
jitterbugging whip, spewing off limp boomerangs of phosphor.
It was a gorgeous sight. No wonder this was called LIFE the
program created life itself. To Gosper, Con-way's simulation
was a form of genetic creation, without the vile secretions
and emotional complications associated with the Real World's
version of making new life. Congratulations you've given
birth to a glider gun!

Early the next morning Gosper made a point of printing out
the coordinates of the pattern that resulted in the glider
gun, and rushed down to the Western Union office to send a
wire to Martin Gardner with the news. The hackers got the
fifty dollars.

This by no means ended the LIFE craze on the ninth floor.
Each night, Gosper and his friends would monopolize the 340
display running various LIFE patterns, a continual
entertainment, exploration, and journey into alternate
existence. Some did not share their fascination...


offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-10 11:48 [#02514935]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

[they] never got the idea. But to Gosper, LIFE was much
more than your normal hack. He saw it as a way to "basically
do science in a new universe where all the smart guys
haven't already nixed you out two or three hundred years
ago. It's your life story if you're a mathematician: every
time you discover something neat, you discover that Gauss or
Newton knew it in his crib. With LIFE you're the first guy
there, and there's always fun stuff going on.

You can do everything from recursive function theory to
animal husbandry. There's a community of people who are
sharing these experiences with you. And there's the sense of
connection between you and the environment. The idea of
where's the boundary of a computer. Where does the computer
leave off and the environment begin?"

Obviously, Gosper was hacking LIFE with near-religious
intensity. The metaphors implicit in the simulation of
populations, generations, birth, death, survival were
becoming real to him. He began to wonder what the
consequences would be if a giant supercomputer were
dedicated to LIFE ... and imagined that eventually some
improbable objects might be created from the pattern. The
most persistent among them would survive against odds which
Gosper, as a mathematician, knew were almost impossible. It
would not be randomness which determined survival, but some
sort of computer Darwinism. In this game which is a
struggle against decay and oblivion, the survivors would be
the "maximally persistent states of matter." Gosper thought
that these LIFE forms would have contrived to exist they
would actually have evolved into intelligent entities.


offline Hyperflake from Wirral (United Kingdom) on 2017-03-10 11:48 [#02514936]
Points: 8843 Status: Addict

...bright young men of disheveled appearance, often with
sunken glowing eyes, can
be seen sitting at computer consoles, their arms tensed and
waiting to fire their
fingers, already poised to strike, at the buttons and keys
on which their attention
seems to be riveted as a gambler's on the rolling dice. When
not so transfixed, they
often sit at tables strewn with computer printouts over
which they pore like possessed
students of a cabbalistic text. They work until they nearly
drop, twenty, thirty hours at
a time. Their food, if they arrange it, is brought to them:
coffee, Cokes, sandwiches. If
possible, they sleep on cots near the printouts. Their
rumpled clothes, their unwashed
and unshaven faces, and their uncombed hair all testify that
they are oblivious to their
bodies and to the world in which they move. These are
computer bums, compulsive


offline Hyperflake from Wirral (United Kingdom) on 2017-03-10 11:51 [#02514937]
Points: 8843 Status: Addict

maximally persistent state of matter, wonder what that means


offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-10 12:14 [#02514940]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

back in one of my weasel threads, i called that "greater
informational coherency." any number of bits of word salad
can be used to reference the concept, but defining it is a
bit more in the wind


offline Hyperflake from Wirral (United Kingdom) on 2017-03-10 12:20 [#02514941]
Points: 8843 Status: Addict

reminds me of those buzzwords like synergy the use at
management presentations, that sound impressive but signify

i can imagine data saying "i need greater informational
coherency" though


offline EpicMegatrax from Greatest Hits on 2017-03-11 02:52 [#02515005]
Points: 8267 Status: Addict

you'd cut it in business but not you ain't got a single

"defining it is a bit in the wind" -- it's a distant future
state we don't understand -- that we will not understand --
until we get there. all we can do for now is plot a course
and squint off in the distance. not much that separates
defining it and achieving it, really.

i'll go ahead and quote myself:

take the weasels... take them, please! no, seriously
folks, the metaphor is a tool for reverse-engineering
and understanding them more thoroughly. take a question
like, "what happens to my brain software when i'm stoned?"
and it gets very confusing. software can't get stoned.
trying to work through that is very abstract and goes
nowhere. when you swap it out for "what happens to my brain
weasels when i'm stoned," and the obvious answer is "all my
weasels are stoned as well." then the answers to lots of
sub-questions are either obvious or bring up important

that doesn't mean i'm using done software as a metaphor.
weasel thing is just a different angle of attack. you
around some blob of question marks and eventually you've
broken it up from one mass into two or three, those get
their own metaphors, and on you go.

ditto for gosper's metaphor vs. my metaphor.


offline mohamed on 2017-03-15 22:57 [#02515643]
Points: 19129 Status: Addict | Show recordbag

i'll go ahead and quote myself:


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