Artificial-life fish!

Here’s an an interesting story about artificial-life fish.

(I can’t believe I just typed that last sentence. Did my mother sit me on her knee when was a child and say, “one day, son, you’ll write about artificial-intelligence fish”? No, she did not. God in heaven, I was supposed to be a lawyer or something. Anyway.)

Ahem. The point is, there’s a cool story at The Feature about Dali, Inc. — a California firm that has developed a platform for mobile artificial-life constructs. According to the story, they’re ideal for use on mobile platforms, much like intelligent versions of Tamagotchis. Dali’s first version of this is a set of virtual aquariums (aquaria?) where you can run a portable, artificial fish that interacts online with others. I’m downloading it now to give it a whirl.

This reminds me of a rumor I once heard about the ill-fated Dreamcast game Seaman. As you may recall, Seaman was an artificial-intelligence “pet” that you talked to via a voice-recognition microphone system. It remembered things about you, grew up, and would engage you in increasingly complex conversations.

The rumor is this: Apparently, the makers of Seaman originally envisioned it as a networked PC game — where each player’s Seaman fish could go online and “talk” to the other fish, finding out what other fish were learning from their owners. Then your Seaman would come back, expontentially smarter from its contact with other Seamen, and freak you out by displaying its new knowledge. “Funny you should X,” your Seaman might tell you, “because a lot of other people are saying Y.” Yikes!

I have no idea if this story is true, but it sounds true. Heh.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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