Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010
HP Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B01

The EvoGrid
Simulating the Origin of Life

Bruce Damer
About the talk:

The EvoGrid is a worldwide, cross-disciplinary effort to create an abstract, yet plausible simulation of the chemical origins of life on Earth. One could think of this as an artificial origin of life experiment. Our strategy is to employ a large number of computers in a grid to simulate a digital primordial soup along with a distributed set of computers acting as observers looking into that grid. These observers, modeled after the very successful @Home scientific computation projects, will be looking for signs of emergent complexity and reporting back to the central grid.

Our starting point is very early along the path of emergence in a phase one might call "prevolution" in that the fundamental mechanisms supporting symbolic codings for replication (and evolution through Darwinian Natural Selection) must in fact emerge from a tabula rasa (ie: no engineer coded in a genetic system). Our goal is to set up conditions and operation to enable us to witness the emergence of structures in space (rings, catalysts, containers/vesicles, simple repeating strings) or reaction sequences in time (autocatalytic sets for example) within the EvoGrid simulation. With this as a foundation a ratcheting up of complexity may then occur, hopefully through several plateaux.

Years in the future, the observing of entities which code their own constructions and reproduction using an artificial genome would be a major scientific breakthrough for emergence science and hopefully shed light on the possible chemical origins of life on Earth. The intellectual and computational breakthroughs will come through optimizing the pathway for vectors of ever higher self organization across the valleys of events of extremely low probability.

The EvoGrid is being built in collaboration with a wide range of collaborating institutions and a large advisory board.


There is no downloadable version of the slides for this talk available at this time.

About the speaker:

Bruce Damer is the founder of and the principal investigator of the EvoGrid project. He was instrumental in developing early user interfaces for personal computers working with Xerox and Elixir in the 1980s, was an early pioneer and organizer of the first virtual worlds featuring users as avatars in the 1990s and since 2000 has led projects for NASA to model space missions in 3D at his company DigitalSpace. Bruce started research on artificial life in the mid 1980s and organized the Digital Biota conference series. His efforts around the EvoGrid combines 25 years of research, personal contacts, and patient waiting for adequate computing power.

Contact information:

Bruce Damer
DigitalSpace Corporation
PO Box 830
Boulder Creek, CA 95006
831 338 9400