Nature of Code: Final Proposal

For my Nature of Code final, I plan to continue the Genetic Crossings Processing sketch project and incorporate some of the concepts from the second half of the course.

Previous documentation for this project: Nature of Code & Intro to Computational Media

Specifically, I want to do the following:

  • Use each person’s characteristics (rated from 1-10, and numbering a total of about 20 characteristics per person) as a ruleset for the Wolfram Cellular Automata structures.  I will have to adapt the code by remapping the 1-10 scale either to a binary state or by making more complex rules (perhaps using color instead of white/black or on/off).  I don’t know that there’s any benefit to the overall project from implementing Wolfram CA here, but perhaps it might give each person within the sketch a unique signature or fractal pattern.

  • Of the three characteristics of genetic algorithms — heredity, variation, and selection — I have implemented my own versions for heredity and variation, but have not really introduced much selection.  The only selection that seems to take place is that, because I have more heavily weighted religion, appearance, and money in the sex() algorithm, those with high stats in those areas will probably reproduce easier.  But this is not equivalent to having an actual fitness algorithm that determines “ideal” environmental success.  As Professor Shiffman writes in his notes, “There must be a mechanism by which some members of a population have the opportunity to be parents and pass down their genetic information and some do not. This is typically referred to as “survival of the fittest.””  I might also try to implement a mutate() function as used in example code, since all I do at the moment is take the average of the parents’ characteristics and then randomize an offset to come up with “mutation”.  Very hacky.
  • System variables and sliders: I liked the Processing sketch “flocking_sliders.pde” from the Shiffman’s chapter 6, “Autonomous Agents” because it let you play with variables on the fly to see how it would affect the simulation: how would you get boids to fly together, but not too close together, and could you enforce more solo or flocking behavior easily?  So I think I would like to use the God person or perhaps a fake country or religion to simulate how wild changes in traits or characteristics of a larger group-level entity could markedly affect individual persons linked to them.  Could I even have individuals leave group-level entities in search of more favorable ones?  What I picture is the person objects bouncing around the environment as the strengths of their relationships change between others, their parents, religions, and countries.  This also introduces the idea of migration patterns.
  • Similarly, I would like to be able to introduce world-level events such as earthquakes, global warming, war, Renaissance, etc. which add or subtract from multiple entities all at once, or even over iterations/time.
  • On an individual level, I wonder if I could implement rites of passage, liminal events in persons’ lives such as turning 21, getting married, having children, etc. that affect their relationships to their communities and increase/decrease their stats.  Would this necessitate perception of stats as opposed to actual stats?  In my project, I’m trying to study the multi-dimensional nature of our presence in the world — what we think of ourselves, what we actually are (objective truth/science?), and what others think about us. Reputation within a community is not often of one mind — one can hold various degrees of influence and respect among different components of the same community.  How does one code this?
  • Visually, I am hoping to make the networks a little more discrete.  For my midterm, the sketch ended up looking mostly like a hub (God) and spokes as more persons were introduced.  What it should be, though, are clusters of parents and offspring, dispersed between different group-level clusters.


Other influences:

  •  Joshua Epstein’s “Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up”, loaned to me by my classmate James Borda.
  • Prof. Shiffman posted this video of a talk by Bret Victor, which argues for real-time feedback for coding, so we can visualize the results of our code and experiment with unintended changes or extremes testing or rapid prototyping for artistic-based projects such as building animations.  Blew my mind.  Seriously, I don’t watch many long lecture vids anymore, but this was awesome:

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  1. Pingback: Nature of Code Final: Genetic Crossings « Ben Turner's Blog

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