Talk:Artificial life/Archive 2

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Responding to RFC[edit]

I know it is not usual to insert new comment at the top. But I started the original discussion off, see above sections on what artificial life is and is not. I said the article should be about artificial life, the beasties. Another said very vociferously "no," (I paraphrase), "over my dead body: 'Artificial life' is not about the life forms, it is the academic discipline of creating synthetic life." This discussion then decayed (in my view) into a discussion about what the study of artificial life is all about. Agreement could not be reached and the RFC process was started. OK. But the bigger argument, should the article artificial life (also) be about the life forms themselves, is being neglected. Paul Beardsell 02:19, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

No, my position is not as you present it. Artificial life the field of study DOES NOT study artificial life forms. Supposing you took the strong ALife position, you could say that the agents that alife the field studies are artificial life forms, but that doesn't mean that all or even most of the imaginable synthetic life is studied by artificial life the field. Also, alife the field studies phenomenon that are not alive, no matter how you define life. Things such as genetic algorithms and artificial chemistries are not "alive", or even claimed to be alive.
The word "artificial life" is just an arbitrary (but well documented and concrete) title applied to a field that studies iterative population dynamics, complexity, evolution, natural selection, multiple agent game theory, and a host of other related topics. It could be called "Purple Elephant", that doesn't mean the field is about purple elephants or even that it studies purple elephants. I'd prefer not to speak for Langston, but I suppose he chose the name to highlight the highly computational nature of the field (artificial) and to find a title that would be a little sensational and produce some much needed press exposure. As Langston himself has said, artificial life the field seeks to explore and understand life in its abstract. It's goal is not to create artificial life forms. It's goal is not to study artificial life forms (which may or may not exist, depending on your definition). It's goal is to understand the sometimes hidden workings of life in all forms, and life related processes.
In short, the two uses of the term can overlap slightly, depending on wether you have a strong or weak alife position, but there is far more that doesn't overlap in both uses of the term that discussing them in the same article, on equal footing, makes about as much sense as combining the articles on biology and physics because of the small amount of overlap they have. --Numsgil 05:26, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Your argument seems to hinge on the fact(?) that artificial life (forms) do not yet exist. The Wright brothers were studying flight before they had something which flew. They were studying systems and mechanisms to allow man-made flight, eventually. You, were you working in that field back then, would deny that you were working towards a flying machine. You would say "man-made flight" is the "study of man-made flight" because "man-made flight" does not exist. I doubt you like the analogy as it is so telling. So, once again, I ask, what is meant by the question: "Is artificial life possible?" Paul Beardsell 07:30, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
No, Paul, his argument does not hinge upon an agreement that alife forms do not exist (are not alive). His argument hinges rather upon the old saw, "A rose by any other name would ..." still be a rose. With, that is, one caveat. Names do not necessarily imply meaning, though they often do. Assuming a meaning for a name is a bad idea. Alife does seek to understand the workings of all life, even that biological but, with a goal of creating a lifeform that is different from those found in biology, whatever its substrate. It is patently wrong to say that the field of alife does not have as a goal the creation of an artificial lifeform. Indeed, this is clearly the goal of the wet alife community, and those on the computational side, like Tom Ray. Heck, Tom has already claimed the existence of living entities within Tierra. I will agree with Tom, (at least abstractly, since I do not well understand Tierra, and therefore cannot comment on the quality of his claim), since I would argue that any robot that can self-replicate is nominally alive. William R. Buckley 18:05, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
In answer to your question, Is artificial life possible?, is a resounding yes. And, Jay, you cannot ignore this point. Humanity, at some point, will collectively agree that artificial lifeforms (life based upon other than the substrate used for aboriginal terrestrial life) do exist, and this will be because we live with them, just as we now live with dogs, cats, birds, snakes, and the like. William R. Buckley 18:05, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
There are two issues here. Is life outside our carbon terrestrial mindset possible, and can we make it? I would say the first is probably pretty well accepted. I'd say the latter is more questionable. Certainly some day someone will be able to make a bacteria or higher from scratch. There's already work being done on resurecting viruses that are dormant in our genetic code. But can we make life that is fundamentally alien to our carbon based reference? What's really questionable here is wether digital organisms can ever be alive. It is entirely feasible that life is an NP complete problem. Think of the inherant parallel nature in all aspects of life, from protein folding, to DNA transcribing, to the interaction of our organs. What's to stop life from being at least as hard as the travelling salesman problem? And, like the travelling salesperson problem, what's to stop near optimal heuristics from arriving pretty close to the mark? Maybe ersatz life is all that is within our reach, but what's to stop that from being meaningful or useful? Then again, maybe life isn't as complicated as we make it. The point is, we don't know, and shouldn't make factual claims about it. And, as I describe elsewhere in this same post, life is an arbitrary and subjective term that we apply to things. How can we make claims about what is possible or even presently exists when we don't even really understand or agree upon a basic definition for life? Heck, we don't even know what life really is. --Numsgil 06:00, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Jay, I want to tie ideas down here, so, please, play along. I need a yes or no answer to these two questions: (i) Do you, Jay Lemmon, agree that life of substrate other than that represented upon Earth is possible? and (ii) Do you, Jay Lemmon, believe that life construction, the ability to construct a living form, is beyond human capacity? William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
My answer to the two questions is yes, and no, respectively, were they posed with my name replacing that of Jay Lemmon. I would further assert that answering yes to the second question exposes a predisposition to vitalist notions. William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
You can talk about how hard the problem is, and about how little we know but, if you presume failure upon a premanent lack of understanding, you miss the point of life: opportunity presages consumption. Heck, we might even, in our frenzy of human folly, stumble upon and create life, quite without notice, initially. That the term life is subjective is acknowledged. William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
To the first, I would say "probably". I know that's not a yes or no answer, but in my experience real life is so seldom black and white like that. Most modern definitions of life preclude something like most of the imaginable forms of life. So if we encounter, say, ammonia seas teaming with self propogating clumps of pure silicon, do we change our definition of life, or invent a new definition? What if the clumps don't propogate themselves, but are created due to an interaction between volcanoes and the planet's ionosphere? What if the clumps are sentient, and we manage to communicate? What if they don't die, but are budded and reabsorbed from a large, central mass? What if they're byproducts of another sentient race's waste interacting with the seas? Is it alive? For every definition of life I've found, you could take one of the requirements, flip it on its ear, and still have something that might be called alive. So much depends on wether we take "life" to be a specific title for the phenomenon on Earth, or a more general term used to describe something we have a hard time defining. So far, there haven't been any examples of life that strain what we expect, so there's no way to tell if we would expand the term "life" or place it as a subclass of a larger word. I would imagine we would expand the term "life", but so much depends on the current culture when such new "life" is found.
To the second, I would say "unlikely, though possible". I consider it extremely likely that man will eventually master nanotechnology to the point of being able to replicate a bacteria from raw materials. But will our chemical or computational skill ever become so great that we can craft something that is "alive" in a medium fundamentally alien to our biological past,? Would we ever know enough chemistry to craft one of the theoretical silicon blobs I described above? Biochemistry is such a huge field. Imagine trying to build its analog on another substrate, without the example that life provides to biochemistry. In silico, things also get a little dicey. Suppose we could scan and perfectly simulate a micro droplet of water with some algae, bacteria, viruses, etc. in it. Would we have created life? Is this life in a different medium from our own, or not? What if we craft something that "lives" as an application on our desktops? We already have TSRs, are they alive? Again, our very definition of life would either need to be expanded, or a new term devised, of which life is a subset. As it stands, life outside of our biocarbon framework is impossible by definition. --Numsgil 03:33, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Our ability to define is limited, no? That is why we will come to call it life. William R. Buckley 17:45, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't see how you can say that my position hinges on wether or not artificial life forms exist. I only ever broach that idea at the top of my first paragraph, and my point was to use it to play devil's advocate. It's by no means the central idea to my argument. Quite the contrary, my point would stand firm if the little digital organisms alife studies use were considered alive. I have the sneaking suspicion that you may not be fully reading my posts, which would explain alot. ;)
My argument is that the two ideas are more dissimilar than similar. As to your analogy, I think a more proper metaphor would be to call what the Wrights' studied "fluid dynamics", and their goal "powered flight". Fluid dynamics does not have the goal of powered flight. Fluid dynamics is simply a field of study which allows the curious to understand the way that fluids move, act, and react in flows. The goal of powered flight does overlap with certain areas of fluid dynamics. They had to do experiments with airfoils, for instance. But they weren't interested in, say, low reynolds flows, so not all of fluid dynamics interested them. By the same token, they had to do engineering work to find the proper materials to use that were strong enough to carry a man and an combustion engine, but light enough to get off the ground. That sort of engineering work doesn't fall within the realm of fluid dynamics. Do you see how the two ideas, fluid dynamics and powered flight, relate? Now imagine the confusion if they were both called the same thing.
Yes, Jay, the notions are different. Yet, differences do not motivations make. William R. Buckley 18:13, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
It might be that one day, the techniques pioneered in artificial life allow for the creation of a synthetic life form. You should not take that to mean that synthetic life is the "goal" of Artificial Life. Artificial Life's only "goal" is to understand the natural processes of evolution, natural selection, complexity, and chaos in biological and sometimes non biological settings. The question of wether synthetic life exists, can exist, or has existed is entirely moot (except as a way to understand the motivations of alife researchers). On the other side, not everything that might be considered a synthetic life form falls within the realm of what artificial life might study. As I've pointed out before, something like HAL from 2001: A space odyssey might be considered alive, but it by no means falls within the realm of Alife research. It's very cleanly within the lines for AI research.
Again, yes Jay, do not confuse the development of method with its application. I quite agree but, this does not extend to justify your argument of the unimportance of goal to the field. It is a necessary point that only when one actually has an artificial life form may one then directly address the primary motivation for the establishment of the field - a lack of alternative lifeforms against which to compare biological life. If you do not have a specific example that is alive, then you have not satisfied this motivation. Of this reason, not only is the creation of an artificial lifeform a goal of the field, it is a requirement. William R. Buckley 18:13, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Certainly creating artificial life forms is the goal of some researchers, but it should be pretty clear that that isn't the focus of the scholarly work done. If you ask an alife researcher what they're doing, they may say "synthesizing life", but that doesn't mean that they're going to call it that when they publish. I've done a significant amount of reading in the ALife proceedings over the last two years or so, and there just aren't that many articles that discuss wether or not digital organisms are alive, or what they would need to have to be considered alive. The closest thing I remember reading is a critique of Robert Rosen's central theorem. That's it. The reason for the dearth of articles on this should be fairly clear: life is a subjective title we apply to certain phenomena, and it doesn't hold any scientific value beyond what we place on it. It is not a quantitative term. We cannot examine something and say it is "30% alive" or has "10 life units" of life in it. The reason its rarely discussed in alife proceedings is because its a potentially loaded topic with poorly defined definitions, exactly the sort of thing that makes for poor science. And exactly the sort of thing that makes for great philosophical arguments.
You presume the justification of your argument. The reason may not be so clear as you think: the problem is very hard, and only rarely do we get much improvement. We have a long way to go. The mere existence of a paper to address the topic of "what is life?" counters your argument. The topic is discussed in the field literature. It just isn't the most common topic, because it is hard, and not because it is unimportant to the field. William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
"What is life?" and related questions are metaphysics and philosophy. The field of Artificial Life does not concern itself with philosophy, even if the researchers and proponents of artificial life do. This is the central point I'm trying to make. Artificial Life is something between a science and an art, but the central tenant is the physically tangible. You can see it, run it in your computer, make it in a lab, taste it, touch it, or otherwise manipulate it. It exists in some form as a physical entity. There are quantitative results that you can measure and record. There are qualitative macroscopic phenomenon you can comment on. It has a very clear grounding in a very pedestrian reality. A sort of WYSIWYG mindset. W(h)ether it's "alive" or not in no way changes the validity of the study. W(h)ether synthetic life is even possible at all or not in no[w] way changes the validity of the study. It only colors our understanding of the result. Artificial Life neatly sidesteps the whole issue, because it isn't a productive course of study.
The issue is not addressed today, because it is not today productive. This is not to say that the issue is not important to the field. You can't have it both ways, a field that is not concerned with whether something is alive or not, and a field that is intended to address the shortcomings of having only biological examples to study which all agree are alive, however ill formed and inaccurate the definition. You must address this disparity in your argument. William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Looking back, I would agree that sying that the question of what is alive "does not interest Artificial Life" is probably hyperbole. However, if there are articles on the philosophy of life, they are the "human interest" of the journal articles. Primarily, I do not see this question as being central to the field as it exists at this moment in time, again because it's not a scientific question. Part of the question here is wether an article on Artificial Life needs to cover what the field would like itself to be, or what the field is at this moment in time. I would say primarily the latter, though the former can (and should) certainly be discussed. --Numsgil 03:33, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Good. Next time, don't go so far with your position. It has great value but, only when tempered. Reasonable is discussing the field as it now is. Unreasonable is intimating that the field will forever remain as it is. There must be enough flexibility in your arguments to account for opportunities. Cover the field as it is but, leave room that the readers view of the topic discussed is also open to the vistas of opportunity. William R. Buckley 07:50, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Now, get on with the revision. Paul, FT2, what are your objections? William R. Buckley 07:50, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
An example: New Scientist magazine, a respected magazine about science for the interested and educated general public, is written by journalists, not by scientists. It is doubtless frustrating for the experts in the field covered in a New Scientist article to read the simplifications, and the glossing over of detail, in the article. But remember who the audience is! That is what is being forgotten here. Neither WP nor any other encyclopedia is supposed to be a set of articles reflecting precisely the detailed minutiae of every discipline. Think! What is it that interested members of the general public will be wanting to know when they look up artificial life here? That is what must appear first in this article. My primary objection has been the hijacking of the WP namespace element "artificial life" to mean only "Artificial Life" [caps?], the (supposed) name of an academic field of study nothing to do with "artificial life" [lowercase?], the English phrase meaning "life which is an artifact, which is manufactured, which is not naturally occurring". I am not persuaded by the arguments denying the common usage here, when I follow them (and I'm not dumb) I think they're specious and excluding. Neither the arguments nor this article is in the spirit of an encyclopedia. WP is not paper, there is lots of space to get into detailed documentation of all the research techniques of the discipline, but FIRST remember the audience. Paul Beardsell 10:44, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
We have a namespace problem: If we are forced to accept the risible proposition insisted on by some here that discipline of "Artificial Life" is not "the study of (or towards) artificial life" then THIS SOLVES NOTHING: We then have an even more serious disambiguation issue than we would have otherwise. The article artificial life must be nothing more than a disambiguation page. That the WP namespace element Artificial Life can be reserved for a description of something that is unrelated to "artificial life (forms)" and that these are given the artificial dreamt-up here-only name of synthetic life, simply to resolve a namespace problem, is a nonsense. The solution is that this article artificial life becomes a short disambiguation page where we explain that alife is nothing to do with artificial life (forms) (as if!), and we link to each of them under those names. Paul Beardsell 10:44, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
So, your hangup is nothing more than namespace. Fine, have two articles, case matters, to disambiguate the topics; (i) Artificial Life the field; and (ii) artificial life, the category. Let each reference the other at the very top of the page, in order that the user be able to correct any misunderstanding in name. Or, am I naïve respecting Wikipedia and case sensitivity? William R. Buckley 17:45, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately the WP software is not happy coping with distinguishing between Artificial life, artificial life and Artificial Life - it always capitalises the initial letter of an article; it will flip the initial case of other words to find a match. The reason it is not good at this is, I guess, because people are not either and the WP s/w is trying to cope with out foibles. So, having two articles artificial life (which automatically would become Artificial life anyway) and Artificial Life will not work either in the s/w or in the heads of WP's users. I suggest three articles: Artificial life - a short disambiguation page referencing two other articles, Artificial life (forms) and Alife (or, if you prefer, Artifical Life (field of study)). Each should reference the other at the top, as you suggest. Paul Beardsell 18:51, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Again, the policy to use is Wikipedia:Disambiguation. There are two ways to disambiguate. You can either place "did you mean X" tags at the top of articles, or use a disambiguation page that links to other pages. There aren't clear guidelines on which to use when, but I would suggest the former if there are only 2 or 3 pages to disambiguate, and the latter when there's more. So I think the page top disambiguation link is the way to go.
The question is then how to name the articles. After reading the disambiguation page, I think life (artificial) for artificial life forms would be the best choice. It emphasizes the fact that it's "life" (or would be if it exists, depending on your position), doesn't conflict with Artificial Life, and doesn't use "new" terms like synthetic life does. The only possible argument against this I can imagine is if you feel it is unfair for Artificial Life to get the article space artificial life. To this, I would claim, again, that I can show conclusively that it is the more common usage of the term, by a great margin. What dictionaries have definitions for Artificial Life define it for the field. Google searches for the term artificial life reveal only uses for the field for the first several pages. When a lay person types in "artificial life" in the Wikipedia search box, it's probably because they read an article in Discover on Avida, or watched a television program. Certainly I approached artificial life from this direction before I became involved at all. To be honest, I didn't even realize there were two terms vying for control of the article until this discussion with Paul started. --Numsgil 04:58, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
Fine, we all agree on disambiguation, and to choose between a separate page, or starting with a top level pointing to derivatives. The question is which is best. I vote for determining case count, and then basing the decision on the measure. The greater the count, the better the separate page. As for article name assignment, I believe that the name should go to the field, and not just because I am in the field (however nominally). The reason is that the artificial lifeforms are subject matter of the field. There is a natural progression. A pointer at the top of the field article to the lifeforms page should immediately present. I am not so in favor of "synthetic life" though the term is also not abhorant; neither "artificial lifeforms" nor "artificial life forms" are elegant, and "synthetic life" approaches elegance. My preference, as earlier stated, is to use case to distinguish between formal name (field) and colloquial name (subject matter). In all of this, it is certain that we should put our decision into formal and concrete terms. We have not heard from FT2. You have my position, and Numsgil's, and debating the point is still open, so let us have yours. William R. Buckley 19:21, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
An article on artificial life forms, on the other hand, needs to delve into the intangible. Into the ambiguity of definition, the arbitrariness of labels, and the related issues of human perception and egotism. It needs to link to articles on artificial consciousness, Frankenstein, morality, Creationism, and other literary, philosophical, and religous articles. The two ideas deserve seperate articles. --Numsgil 06:00, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
On this point, I will agree. There does need to be a separation article-wise between discussion of the field and discussion of the subject matter of the field, and perhaps a few other levels of break-down. I might want to limit some of the outside, extra-science connections, at least directly, but see the utility of the partition you promote. William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
I hope I've been clear this time. ;) --Numsgil 13:36, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Nice touch, however coincidental, the way one explanation feeds into the comment of another. My complements. William R. Buckley 21:09, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

The essence here is we have a term, "Artificial life", that has multiple uses. In this case, it is used by at least two areas of study:

  • People who seek to explore the creation of artificial life, or life-forms, which presumably may be either biological or based upon artificial intelligence depending on the research speciality.
  • People who seek to model existing life and understand how it works and develops, by creating artificial analogs of it, and examining their development, evolution, and behavior.

Both of these subjects have a legitimate basis for using the term "artificial life", and both have followings and interested parties who use the term "artificial life" for ttheir specific choice of one or the other. (A Wikipedia category Category:Artificial life has also been set up but as that is an encyclopedia construct, the fact of its creation and population to date hasn't got much bearing on how the two subjects should be presented and described.)

In the usual course of events, two policies or practices inform and guide these kind of situations, and I think similar handling might therefore also help sort this debate out too. The relevant policies are use of disambiguation for words covering multiple subjects, and use of Wikipedia:Summary style and splitting out of significant self-contained subjects into their own appropriately named pages.

Two sets of users of the term "AL" are presently somewhat vying for their preferred usage to be associated with that subject. I don't think that helps Wikipedia at all. What a user expects to see on reading an article about "Artificial life", is an overview of exactly that - artificial life. It would be an overview article that describes all aspects of the AL subject, including topics such as the historical interest in developing AL, types of AL, uses of AL, concerns over AL, AL in fiction -- and also the use of AL to model real living processes, and the development of biological and computerized AL -- with summary style links in each section to point to the relevant main articles. Both of the articles presently discussed are really subtopics within the broader field of "artificial life" overall. They are subtypes or specialist subareas in AL. The problem is not "which of these should be called artificial life on Wikipedia". The problem is that there needs to be one umbrella article on AL, and then these two articles both need to be linked from it as specialist aspects to that field. FT2 (Talk | email) 17:33, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

You are slightly confused. The two ideas are vying for the same word, yes, but they are only cursorly related. This isn't a case that can be solved by splitting out. Consider the case of apple and Apple Inc.. Clearly splitting out doesn't apply to these two articles. Splitting out certainly applies to the case of wet alife and the main alife page, but not to the case of synthetic life and artificial life. For this, Wikipedia:Disambiguation is the proper policy to use. The question should be wether we make alife a disambiguation page or just include redirects at the top of the article. I would argue for redirects, for the simple reason that, as any google search will tell you, the term "Artificial Life" applies specifically to alife studies in silico far, far, far more often that it applies to either wet alife or artificially created life forms. Certainly wikipedia should bow to the strongly more common usage.
Again, synthetic life might not be the best article title. I'm more than happy to support changing it to whatever people feel is the better choice, but I strongly think that artificial life should point to artificial life studies in general, and in silico specifically, due to the overwhelming usage of the term to describe it. --Numsgil 22:54, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

I believe FT2 gets this wrong and Numsgil ignores the real question here. The debate is not about "artificial life" referring to which of two slightly different dields of study. The debate is about "artificial life" referring to:

  • Field(s) of study about artificial life.
  • Artificial life (forms).

The term refers to both of these. On this page most (all?) contributors have used the term in both senses, even those who have argued it refers only to (the) field(s) of study.

Do you mean this page, the talk page, or this page, the main article? The main article, in my view at least, uses the term explicitly to refer to the field of study. --Numsgil 05:26, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes! But that is because, on that page, _YOU_ refuse to allow any other usage than that. So the above para is nothing but a circular argument. You beg the question. Paul Beardsell 09:50, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
It's not meant as an argument, it's meant as a clarification. If you mean the talk page (you still don't say explicitly, but I'm assuming this is what you mean), my personal usage of the term to refer to synthetic life is meant as something between ironic usage and meeting you half way. Certainly the term can be applied to synthetic life, but its usage in that manner is comparitively rare in common parlance. I can show you this is true by again citing google search results. In addition, only provides definitions for the field of artificial life, none of the definitions means artificially created life forms. Because mutual use leads to confusion, and the term is far more common when applied to the field, it makes sense to me at least that we find another term for the idea of synthetically created life. Synthetic life has no other connotations from artificial life, the life form. Another possible title for an article on synthetic life could be life (artificial). --Numsgil 13:36, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

What is meant by the most important question asked by those involved in artificial life: "Is artificial life possible?" In the 1st use of artificial life in this para we mean the study of. The the second use we mean the beasties themselves.

This is not the "most important" question, unless you're applying your own sense of importance. Certainly the question of the status of digital organisms as being alive or not is asked, but it is hardly the central focus of research. --Numsgil 05:26, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

It is this absolutely proper use, the use of "artificial life" to refer to life forms, which is being suppressed here.

It may be a "proper" use, but it is the lesser common use, by a great margin. Again, a google search will tell you this. --Numsgil 05:26, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Paul Beardsell 23:21, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

I don't think we're a million miles apart in interpretation. We seem to both be saying the same thing: people of the lay-public who click on an article about "Artificial life" will probably want to read about artificial life overall, including AL in the sense of "life forms" -- which isn't fully represented right now. For a term like AL which is so broad, it probably needs an overview article to cover all aspects of AL, and at present this article doesn't do that, it overlooks some aspects in an imbalanced way, which is a problem. Is there not a general "overview" article on artificial life? FT2 (Talk | email) 00:03, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I think that that is the way forward. Artificial life would be an overview article, explaining relatively briefly the sub-topics (no more than a paragraph or two on each) and linking to each of them. Artificial life (the study of) and Artificial life (forms) OR ANY OTHER SENSIBLE BREAKDOWN. Paul Beardsell 02:11, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
I was having a similar thought, so I'd support that (or something similar) as a resolution. FT2 (Talk | email) 15:34, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

Summary of my argument: "X" is not "the study of X". When people say "X" but mean "the study of X" then this will be clear from context. To avoid saying "the study of X", or "the accumulated body of knowledge about X", or, equivalently, "the science of X", people will start to say "X", on its own, to be shorthand for "the study of X". But "X" never becomes "the study of X". It doesn't matter how big an expert anyone is in (the study of) X or how many X's one has in one's garage, neither gives anyone a privileged position in this argument. This is a question of language and also one of philosophy and logic: If "X" means "the study of X" then what does "the study of X" mean other than the infinite regress "the study of the study of the study of ... X". But, for shorthand purposes, sometimes or even often people will say "X" when they mean "the study of X". An article on "X" should also be about "X", not just "the study of X". Paul Beardsell 02:42, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

Artificial life is not the study of artificial life, even though it (might) (arguably) study artificial life at times. --Numsgil 05:26, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Ha! Parsing: The 1st instance of "artificial life" in the above para might refer to the academic pursuit called artificial life, which is not (we are told), 2nd instance, the activity of examining either the academic pursuit or the little beasties themselves, context does not allow the meaning to be determined, whereas the 3rd instance seems to refer to the actual thing, artificial life, itself. This confusion is created by you alone. Whatever, you do not address the logical argument I present. You simply repeat the error to good effect reinforcing precisely my point. Paul Beardsell 07:23, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
I use "artificial life" for both life (artificial) and artificial life (field of study) exactly to point out what you have just done. There is potential confusion if you use the same term for both ideas. Which is a strong reason in and of itself not to mix them in the same article. To rephrase: Artificial life is not the study of synthetic life, even though it (might) (arguably) study synthetic life forms. --Numsgil 13:36, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
I support what I understand as the sense of PB's comment: that the two topics are related, and are treated here in a reasonable way. The place to talk about various forms of artifical life is in articles devoted to those specific forms. The only thing I would change is to reword to require the less frequent use of the term alife, which does not seem to be used except among the active proponents of this speciality. DGG 04:55, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

RFC continued[edit]

New section because the structure of the above is getting far too complex and, I think we all agree, some or most of it is not relevant to the issue which all now (seem) to agree is one of WP namespace usage.

Summary of current position:

My proposal is one short disambiguation page entitled artificial life with a link to Alife [or Artificial Life (field of study) or whatever you like] and another link to Artificial life (forms) [or whatever]. I justify this on the basis that the (above) average WP reader will be expecting (first) to see a discussion on "artificial life (itself)" rather than a description of research techniques used by those involved in "Artificial Life (the study of)".

Numsgil and William favour a proposal that is essentially the status quo. Artificial life will continue to be a large article about "the study of artificial life". The subject of "artificial life itself" will be relegated to an article with some name other than artificial life. There will be an italicised intro sentence at artificial life which, if I get to write it, will say: Those who are interested in reading about "artificial life" (i.e. life which does not occur naturally) are likely to be disappointed and puzzled by this article. They are referred to Life (artificial).

Paul Beardsell 23:20, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

BTW, what are your thoughts about life (artificial) instead of the other possibilities? --Numsgil 04:22, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
What I object to is artificial life being a seemingly comprehensive article NOT about artificial life itself. Especially if (but not only if) "the study of artificial life" is continued to be claimed NOT to be the study of/towards artificial life itself. If such nonsense is to continue I want a short disambiguation article called artificial life which references artificial evolution [or Artificial Life (the study of) or whatever we settle on] and Life (artificial) [or whatever we settle on]. Paul Beardsell 07:41, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Put all that aside for the moment. We both agree that an article on artificial life forms doesn't belong at artificial life. Leave aside for the moment the issue of what should go there. How do you feel about the article title life (artificial) as opposed to artificial life (file form) or synthetic life or anything else so far proposed? What sits best with you? --Numsgil 08:18, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
As I believe I have already said clearly: What best sits with me is (i) the article artificial life concerns itself about artificial life itself and not just the study of/towards artificial life and (ii) that the article should not assert that (the study of) Artificial Life is not about artificial life (life which does naturally occur). I think it likely I will go along with any naming or disambiguation scheme proposed which is consistent with those two points. Paul Beardsell 10:37, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
You want artificial life to be a disambiguation page, right? That is your present position? This would mean that artificial life forms doesn't get that namespace. How do you feel about life (artificial) being the namespace for the article on artificial life forms? --Numsgil 11:24, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
This simplifies my position a little. I only think that disambiguation is really necessary as long as you insist that Artificial Life (the field of study) is not about the study of artificial life (forms) and while you insist that artificial life (forms) should not be discussed in the Artificial Life article. It seems you may have now resiled a little from that position. If separate articles are necessary (or just desirable) I do not think that either usage should take the "[Aa]rtificial [Ll]ife" namespace slot to the exclusion of the other. You have suggested what we might call the article about the non-natural beasties, now tell me what you propose to call the article for the synonymous discipline where those are not studied.  :-) Paul Beardsell 12:15, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
That's really a seperate issue, which is what we're discussing below, after all. For this tiny little section, I'm just interested in knowing what you'd like the article on the artificial variety of life to be called. It'd be one less issue to worry about if we could resolve it. --Numsgil 13:12, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Were disambiguation forced on us by the continued insistence that (the study of) Artificial Life (sic) is not about (inter alia) artificial life itself [although I note you no longer claim this] then I would be reluctantly happy with "life (artificial)" or even "synthetic life". But disambiguation is no longer necessary (although it may be a good idea) as you have conceded (or so it seemed to me - but see below) that artificial life itself is a subset of the domain of the discipline of Artificial Life (sic). Similarly, however: "For this tiny little section, I'm just interested in knowing what you'd like the article on the" discipline of Artificial Life (sic) "to be called. It'd be one less issue to worry about if we could resolve it." Paul Beardsell 20:32, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Disambiguation is necessary (explained in greater detail later in this same post). Also, I think you're using (sic) in the opposite way it's supposed to be used. You might want to double check your usage. --Numsgil 04:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
You're mistaken. "Sic" is used to label someone else's usage. It means, literally, "just so". Paul Beardsell 23:03, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Then we have a real problem. You're not just misquoting me, you're misquoting me to say things that are entirely 180 degrees from what I'm really saying. You quote me as saying "For this tiny little section, I'm just interested in knowing what you'd like the article on the 'discipline of Artificial Life (sic)' to be called." when I really said "For this tiny little section, I'm just interested in knowing what you'd like the article on the artificial variety of life to be called." I was hoping you just misunderstood what (sic) meant, and that it wasn't a malicious attempt at subverting my position. --Numsgil 06:18, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
No! I use your words in part and substitute some others in an attempt to throw back at you the same question you repeatedly wanted me to answer but from the other side of the argument. I do this carefully: Note the quotation marks! My purpose was to demonstrate that you might be reluctant to answer the same question you have been insisting here that I answer before proceding with more pertinent matters. I may have been misguided here but you are not reading this at all carefully. Paul Beardsell 06:47, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

Critique of the status quo position:

William justifies this by saying that artificial life is or will be something that arises out of the study of artificial life. I note that Numsgil seems to think the likelihood of artificial life arising this or any other way is doubtful. William is likely correct, in my view, but note that eventually artificial life will be created by artificial life (forms) involved themselves in the academic and practical study of artificial life. But this is a poor argument for resolving a WP namespace issue. In the chicken or the egg argument the question is resolved: the egg did actually come first. But you don't read first in endless detail about eggs when you look up Chicken at WP.

Two things: first, I do not feel that Artificial Life giving rise to life (artificial) is "doubtful". I would say the possibility is quite promising. But certainly it's not a certainty. Second, and entirely off point, when you say "In the chicken or the egg argument the question is resolved: the egg did actually come first.", I'm very confused, because the article you link to doesn't resolve the question, it just highlights that the question is subjective and resolves it for various ways the question could be asked. Were you making a point when you said this that I'm not getting, other than the obvious one about the article chicken? Either way, I would point out that egg is linked very early in the chicken article. In fact, it's the third sentence. ;) --Numsgil 04:35, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Of course the article Artificial Life (the study of) must reference Life (artificial) in the 1st para and vice versa. Paul Beardsell 07:41, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

William echoes Numsgil's earlier suggestion that article naming be done by counting google hits, as if he does not

This takes my statements out of context - particularly the last statement I made respecting the means of determining the hierarchical structure to take, at least in the short term. The notion I have is to identify the number of issues with naming, such as that between two options, which was discussed earlier, and to which I expect the above sentence refers. Paul discussed two, perhaps more, different usages of the name Artificial Life. My count refers to such notions, not to the number of different categories into which references revealed a la Google might be compartmentalised. The latter is sophomoric. William R. Buckley 07:54, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

already know the answer this would produce. I counter this by using an earlier argument of William's, it is easier to write about easier stuff - hence the known result. Obviously there would have been more articles about manufacturing feathers and the flapping of wings than there would have been about actual manned flight, 200 years ago. That does not mean that an article on "manned flight", if WP had existed back then, should have been about the current research in how to mimic the evolution of feathers! That is Numsgil's argument, recast into manned flight terms.

But certainly it would imply that "manned flight" isn't the common usage of the term, right? And that would seem to imply that an article on, say, "flight" would, and arguably should, point to birds, bees, and bats (the three B's ;)), right? I'm sidestepping the argument that I'm tired of giving about the fact that Artificial Life is not the study of life (artificial) (or maybe I'm not, since I just mentioned it, huh? ;)) --Numsgil 04:35, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
The article on flight DOES refer to animal flight! It disambiguates all types of flight=flying (i.e. except running away etc). Thanks for the pointer. "The study of X" is not about "X". What sophistry! Paul Beardsell
Have you forgotten the context we were discussing? "What would wikipedia have 200 years ago?" What the present flight page has is sort of moot, right? It's 200 years removed. I'm not sure what a present day metaphor would be. --Numsgil 08:18, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Also, are you being facetious, or do you really not understand the point I try to make when I say that Artificial Life isn't the study of artificial life forms? I can go over it again, if you like ;) --Numsgil 08:18, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I have argued against this more than once and you have not attempted to address my argument at all. That "the study of X" can be called "X" (leaving aside the problem of the infinite regress) is then contradicted by the assertion that the object of "the study of X" is not "X". Name any field of study X where this usage occurs. They all pan out, case by case, like this one: As the intro to Mathematics acknowledges, sometimes we mean the study of mathematics when we say mathematics. But no one says the study of mathematics is not about maths! Paul Beardsell 10:52, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
The problem is that you misunderstand the prefix "the study of". Suppose I say that I am studying Biology, or am involved in the study of Biology. Does that mean that I'm involved in a meta study? Do I study biologists as part of some sociological study? No, probably not. I'm using "studying" and "the study of" as redundant prefixes. The "ology" suffix and the "the study of" prefix both mean the same thing. The redundancy is for emphasis. Artificial Life might have been called something that ended in -ology, if Langston hadn't decided to call the field Artificial Life. Suppose the field was called ProtoViviology. I would still use the phrase "the study of protoviviology" from time to time, to emphasize that it's a field of study. Especially since Artificial Life doesn't end in an -ology, you need that redundant phrase tacked on the from when you're introducing people to the field. It's confusing, and highly semantic, I'll agree, but I didn't make up the terms, and I don't get to decide. That goes for you too. --Numsgil 11:24, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
No, I do not misunderstand this. (i) If all you were talking about were a redundancy that would be fine. But you are (or have been) saying Alife is not about artificial life! That is like saying "biology is not about life". (ii) Whereas "the study of biology" can be a redundancy and not a meta-study thus allowing us to say, in some contexts, that "the study of biology" is "biology" we can NEVER say that "the study of life is life" or, meaning that, that "biology is life". Similarly, artificial life may be (in context) the field of study but it is NOT a field of study not about artificial life. Paul Beardsell 12:33, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
This is where the idiosyncracies of the English language and Langston in particular come in. Remember, he named the field pretty much at its birth, during the first ALife conference. He hoped that it would lead to a demonstration of strong Alife theory: that is, the creation of new life forms (more accurately, he already felt that he had synthesized life, so he was promoting strong alife theory). The field's christening was one (influential) man's choice, and it just sort of stuck. It's not necessarily the best choice, so don't read too much into it. Presumably Langston wanted Artificial Life to be a field that studied the little critters running around in his simulation, and their ilk. What the field is now, and what Langston wanted it to be, are probably a little different. There's alot of modern emphasis on practical application. Certainly we still study digital organisms, but there are alot of other areas that are also included. Likewise, Langston came from a background without -ology. Computer Science, Chaos Theory, Bioinformatics, etc. Modern sciences don't have ology at the end. He was probably following in that tradition. The naming of the field was fairly arbitrary and a little accidental. It wasn't coined by a linguist, so be careful how much you read into it. --Numsgil 13:12, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm reminded of Alice in wonderland. Specifically Humpty Dumpty on words.
I think this reinforces my point. I am arguing that words mean what they mean. That "Artificial Life" has been taken by some to mean, in certain contexts, "the study of artificial life forms and their constituent systems", is regrettable. But that does not remove from the phrase of "artificial life" the ordinary adjective+noun meaning. It does not reserve exclusively the phrase for the specialist, elitist purpose. Paul Beardsell 21:02, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree. One use of a word should not steal validity from another use. Such is the rich tapestry of the English language. But that's not what's at stake here. What's at stake is which article gets awarded the namespace. And I would still posit that the (far) more common usage should get it. Would you disagree? --Numsgil 04:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
A quick example of someone using "the study of biology", because I know you'll ask for a real reference. on the Biology page, search for the phrase "Molecular biology is the study of biology at a molecular level." Clearly they don't mean that Molecular Biology is the study of biologists at the molecular level! --Numsgil 11:28, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
No, and just as clearly, they don't mean molecular biology is "life at the molecular level": It is "the study of life at the molecular level." Paul Beardsell 12:33, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Again, disassociate the two terms Artificial Life and artificial life in your head, and this all becomes much easier. Pretend they're different. When you see Artificial Life, change it to protoviviology. "A rose by any other name...", as they say. Artificial Life is just a name that happens to share the same letters as artificial life (forms). --Numsgil 13:12, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I conceded this point long ago. The problem is that not only are the same letters shared, and our brains cope reasonably well with the necessary disambiguation, but that there is only one slot in the WP namespace for that combination of letters. That is the issue. As you have already conceded that what you now playfully suggest could be called protoviviology has has its domain a superset of artificial life itself then all protestation that these two are distinct fall away. Paul Beardsell 20:46, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Read further. Neither is a superset of the other. I explain this further later on. It seems to me like you latched onto the first thing I said that you wanted to hear, and didn't read the rest. To be honest, my position hasn't changed a single iota in about 3 weeks. Just my ability to express it coherently, and have others listen ;) --Numsgil 04:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
As to the real point, please read very carefully, because I'm sure I've said this at least 4 different times. Artificial Life studies some things that are not alive, period. Genetic algorithms and many others topics are often the subject of papers (quite often. The last Journal set I aquired had a third of its bulk devoted to visualization techniques for genetic algorithms). But no one claims that they're alive. Artificial Life also sometimes studies real life, usually in the context of comparison to digital organisms, but I wouldn't say exclusively. Biological life is not artificial, so it can't qualify as "artificial life forms". Clearly the Venn diagram of the domain of study for Artificial Life, that is, what Articial Life studies, and artificial life forms, would look like this: Венов дијаграм.svg. There is some overlap, but it's not a bijection. That is why "the study of X" is not the study of X. Confusing, but true. --Numsgil 11:24, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
OK! So the field of study, Artificial Life, is ALSO about artificial life (forms), not just their component bits. Hurrah! Paul Beardsell 12:33, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I am happy enough to see it acknowledged that A and B have a non-empty intersection. But it goes further than that. What aspect of artificial life (forms) would (the study of) Artificial Life not consider to be in its domian? B is a subset of A. Paul Beardsell 12:44, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
HAL 9000, or something like it, might be considered alive. But it clearly falls to AI research, not ALife research. You should discuss HAL 9000 and its ilk in an article about artificial life forms. But it doesn't really belong in an article about Artificial Life. --Numsgil 13:12, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
That's a straw artificial-life argument! I have not mentioned HAL 9000. If HAL 9000 is alive then it it deserves a mention in the fiction section of the artificial life article. If HAL 9000 is not alive then it does not. So HAL 9000 does not illustrate the point you are trying to make. It seems artificial life (forms) remains a subset of the domain of the discipline of Artificial Life (sic). Paul Beardsell 20:46, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I think you're missing the point. I wasn't trying to discredit you, I was answering your question: "What aspect of artificial life (forms) would (the study of) Artificial Life not consider to be in its domian?". Even if HAL is alive, it doesn't belong on the Artificial Life page, because it has nothing to do with ALife research. It belongs to AI research. It does belong on the page for life (artificial), which is what I'm trying to say. Again, there is a non empty intersection between what Artificial Life studies, and what artificial life could be. But neither is entirely contained within the other. The overlap is not even the majority of either, I'd say. --Numsgil 04:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

The mapping of WP article names to article contents should reflect WP readers' reasonable expectations, not to satisfy the seemingly entrenched position of some small elite.

I've never been an elite before. I'm excited! ;) --Numsgil 04:35, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

That "the study of X" is sometimed referred to as "X" is simply a matter of shorthand, initially resolvable always by context. Later, out of habit and laziness, "X" may become identified as "the study of X" by those who would otherwise have to say "the study of X", again and again, or would have to be careful of context before abbreviating "the study of X" to "X". "The study of X" cannot mean "X" because then we have an infinte regress. The only possible way out of this logic fallacy is to say, as Numsgil as done, that "X" is not "X" at all. Or that "X" is impossible.

Paul Beardsell 23:20, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Would you agree to what Will and I are saying if we could find a way to conclusively show that usage of Artificial Life referring to the field is not only >, but >> than usage of artificial life to refer to a class of life? If so, it seems to me to just be a question of arriving at a fair way of determing it (or the inverse ) --Numsgil 04:35, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
No. There is (most everyone agrees) as yet NO artificial life. How much could be written about it, already? That does not mean that artificial life should not yet have an article about it. Paul Beardsell 07:41, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Paul, I challenge you to cite your evidence that no artificial life exists. Indeed, I have already given one example of acceptance of equivalence in the being that is a virus, biological or computational. Further, respected researchers claim living systems exist within computational environments. Also, Jay, my notion of counting, as stated above, is quite different from a mere survey of Google. Look at the issue linquistically, count the number of different usages, not instantiations of the various usages. I want to consider categories, not populations. William R. Buckley 08:10, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
William, I apologise if I misrepresented your view, but I did not say that no artificial life exists. Just that most think none yet exists. [By "artificial life" I assume you mean artificial life itself and not the study thereof.] Paul Beardsell 10:29, 17 January 2007 (UTC) Yes, this is what I mean, specific *organisms* , and no, I would not agree that most people think artificial life does not yet exist, i.e. that there are no organisms of artificial life. There, I used the word (phrase, artificial life), to well specify two different things, specific examples and the general case. William R. Buckley 20:26, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
How are we going to count the number of usages? What are our sources going to be? It's a great idea in theory, but how do we practically go about doing it? For instance, do we read through articles in Artificial Life journals? That would see to be a bias, wouldn't it? Also, a seperate point: remember that artificial life other than, say, making a bacteria from scratch, is impossible by definition of life (at least, the definition of life taught to me in my Bio class not so many years ago). I would say that saying that artificial life (lower case, improper noun, paraphrased from Paul) is commonly accepted to not exist is a pretty safe statement, though finding sources is going to be hard. Let me see if I can find something... --Numsgil 08:31, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree it is a difficult task. First, we discuss it, as we are now. If you read my writing, you might think otherwise but, in fact, I have not mastered English. I know that my command of grammar is not strong, that a grammarian would quickly find reason to comment. So, I am not the best person to direct such a task, as this analysis of the usage of words, as to variety versus frequency of expression. Still, the discussion I mention (which I will label with the TLA WRB) shows these classes of usage. We should begin there. Give me a bit more time and I will prepare a new discussion topic that begins with these categories. The group can then work to produce the analysis. This is just my suggestion. Alternative means to settle the agreed issue of subject organisation/article hierarchy are welcome. William R. Buckley 20:26, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Here's a quote from the life article. Emphasis added by me: "Some individuals contest such definitions of life on philosophical grounds, and offer the following as examples of life: viruses which reproduce; storms or flames which "burn"; certain computer software programs which are programmed to mutate and evolve; future software programs which may evince (even high-order) behavior; machines which can move; and some forms of proto-life consisting of metabolizing cells without the ability to reproduce. [citation needed]
"Still, most scientists would not call such phenomena expressive of life. Generally all seven characteristics are required for a population to be considered a life form." Again, saying that artificial life forms are not commonly accepted to exist is a pretty safe statement. --Numsgil 08:37, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Problem is, this view is biocentric. Those characteristics tend to be locomotion, respiration, injestion, reproduction, (I am writing these from memory) excretion, (what are the other two, since I took high school biology about 35 years ago) ... First, life forms are not populations, they are individuals, whether they be cells or of higher order. If the definition contains any hint of substrate specificity, it is biocentric. You base your argument for terms of acceptance of article construction and content upon a bias, which bias is at odds with the axioms of the subject of the article. William R. Buckley 20:26, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
No argument that it's biocentric, almost laughably so. And I appreciate the irony of in your last sentence, too. But the fact remains that if you ask the majority of biologists if there are any sorts of life known to science beyond the naturally occuring biological kind, they would say no. And that needs to be reflected in article construction, even to our chagrin. --Numsgil 04:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree, Paul. Plenty of theoretical objects have articles. Such as Dyson sphere for instance. But that's not what I asked. Clearly something needs to go at the location artificial life. The options are either: a disambiguation page, artificial life forms, or the field of Artificial Life. As Will and I have both pointed out, a dedicated disambiguation article makes the most sense when there are lots of possible articles to disambiguate. Top links make more sense when there are only two or maybe three articles to disambiguate.
Exactly my point. I would give a little, to greater top link count, if interveening layers exist below. William R. Buckley 20:26, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Would you agree with this assessment? If not, why not? Assuming you do, that means that the article space artificial life would either belong to the field or the life form, right? In this case, the article space should go to the more common usage of the term, right? In which case what we need is a way of determining which is the more common usage, right? Please expand on any of the steps I've made to which you disagree, and the reasons for which you disagree. That should help us reach an understanding, instead of just arguing. --Numsgil 08:18, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Every use of "X" on its own when the "study of X" is intended is just shorthand. At first this would always have been obvious from context. Some will unfortunately not realise this and start to use "X" as if it meant "the study of X". Some of those who are actually conducting investigations into X are more likely to make this mistake or less likely to detect it! Another level will be pushed. There will be a journal called "Artificial Life" which is not the life forms themselves, nor it is the study of the beasties, it is the journal. In the editorial office often they will say "Artificial Life" and MEAN the journal itself! If you like: meta-artificial life is the study of artificial life. Meta-meta-artificial life is the journal covering the study of artificial life. Paul Beardsell 07:55, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Be careful of how you do your count, qualify the answer, etc. I do not really have the time to attend the task. Tell me what you find. The best solution is one agreed upon, so keep that point in mind. Wikipedia should not be a contest of will or ego. What we should want is correct and quality articles. William R. Buckley 20:26, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
I'll see what I can come up with if Paul thinks the excercise valuable. It's alot of work, so I'd prefer not to personally go into it if I could avoid it. --Numsgil 04:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
The number of elements in a superset is at least the number of elements of its subset. Paul Beardsell 07:25, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
And the angles in a triangle must add up to a half circle. Unfortunately, neither rule really helps us in this case. I'm assuming your answer is that trying to calculate the usage isn't worthwhile? --Numsgil 07:44, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
"Obtuse" is not only a property of a triangles! Obviously, every google mention of the subset necessarily refers also to the superset. As the domain of alife (study) "includes" (your word) the study of alife (forms) [although where you are on your continual flip flop on this issue right now I cannot tell] the google count will not resolve anything. Paul Beardsell 23:11, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

Have a look at the article History of artificial life. To be consistent with this article it would have to an article about "the history of research techniques of a discipline NOT actually about artificial life". Not so? Paul Beardsell 08:00, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Exactly so. And it is. I know this because I made the article. Read the article from start to end. The things about the duck, etc. in the beginning are a sort of human interest "isn't that nice" that funnels down into the article proper. The article is about the history of the field. --Numsgil 08:21, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
But I thought that you continued to assert that "Artificial Life" (by which you mean "the study of") is not about "artificial life" ("forms"). This seems to gybe with your treatment of these supposedly disjoint concepts in the history of artificial life article. Paul Beardsell 10:24, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
This is a sort of complex thing, but let me try to sum up what's going on. In November, I rewrote the alife page top to bottom. The old article was terrible, primarily because it was mashing life (artificial) and Artificial Life in the same article, though I didn't really understand that at the time. Most of the old page was a very dense history of the field over the last few decades. This is what you find in the history of alife article. I pretty much just copy and pasted it over. It's salvagable, and contains some good information, but it's just way too dense for an encyclopedic article, so I relegated it to its own article. --Numsgil 11:24, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Most of what was wrong with the old page was because of the mixing of the two ideas. That's why I'm so against it now. Explore the alife article's history in september, to get an idea of what I'm talking about. Note that the alife history article is predominately about the history of the field. It excludes most of what you would want to see in an article on the history of artificial life forms, aside from that opening paragraph with the duck :P. --Numsgil 11:24, 17 January 2007 (UTC)