SimVida - An Artificial Life Experiment

Rodrigo Setti

The SimVida Project



What is life anyway? Does "living" are only those processes happening which are based on carbon? Or does life is a higher definition that embraces anything capable on self copying and evolve? This project was not created to answer such philosophical questions, instead it was created to show in a very simple way that the evolution process of live as we know - Darwin's natural selection - can be simulated in a computer machine. Indeed the complexity and amplitude of the system is very limited because of the computer performance, but yet it is possible to see real evolution in front of your eyes.

To make this faster than the real world where genetic improvements happen within million of years, the creatures in this simulator - called Biots - hold a very simplified genome which leads to more dramatic mutation changes, besides, the life spam is very short accelerating generations and so the evolution itself.

The Biot is a very interesting creature. It is virtual, actually it is a set of bytes - can one call it alive? - can one call a set of atoms alive? The Biots have only one goal in their lives since they're born: to reproduce, in other worlds, move on their genetic codes, or genomes. That must be done with urgency as their life spam is short, the Biots grow energy leaks as they old until they cannot stand it anymore and die.

The only heath parameter for a Biot is its energy amount, when such value drops below zero it dies, and on the other hand, if such value goes beyond a specific reproduction threshold set by its genes it gives birth to a offspring(not sexed reproduction). To its offspring the Biot mother gives a certain amount of energy, also set by its genes.

The Biots to hit its reproduction threshold and move their genes on need to get more energy. And to do so they need to run after and eat little blue dots spread over the environment in order to get a certain amount of energy. Unfortunately the blue grains are quite rare and just appear in random places, actually on most of time there are more Biots than grains in a simulation, that means a Biot have to compete for grains among themselves.

The Biots, to get such grains, needs to swim, and the swim consumes energy, so its better that every energy spent on swimming for the food make it worth the energy gained by the food itself. There are infinite anatomic configurations and behaviors for a Biot to swim, some of them are extremely inefficient making you spend pounds of energy to swim a little inches, others are even worse: they don't get out of the spot... Just a little piece of that set allows a specimen to swim after grains, collect sufficient energy to reproduce and move their genes on for their offspring to do the same and so on.

At each reproduction there is a small probability of happening a genetic random mutation in any gen of the offspring, the mutation can affect everything, from swimming movement, head's size, number of limbs, etc. One mutation among the Biots its not very welcome, that happens because most mutant are weird carrying variations that make life harder. They cannot compete for food and have children and they find death early, if they still manage to get children, they will not have a very good life too as they will heir the freaky mutation. Despite of that some of mutations, a very little part of them, actually gives the lucky mutant a skill improvement, they make it better than they parents due to a better speed, energy efficiency or reproduction strategy. That improvement lead it to have more offspring and their offspring as well, after several generations that mutant family will give rise to a brand new and better population.

So, generation after generation and it is possible to verify a constant rise on the speed, efficiency and overall adaptation of the Biots to the environment. It is possible to save any Biot's genes to a file to load it afterwards in another simulation to analyze the effect of introducing a new specimen. Walls can be build to isolate population geographically. Real biologic wars can happen between specimens to conquer a place.

You can find out and learn a lot with Simvida. Study evolution patterns depending on the parameters set on the environment, save well succeeded genetic codes to make them compete. To clone, mutate and kill Biots without blame. Build walls map to work like Biots farms, breed and create creatures as you wish.

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