Artificial life is an interesting research field at the junction of many scientific disciplines. I had the pleasure to read three books that cover this topic from different perspectives.
The first and maybe most complete of them is Mitchell Whitelaw’s “Metacreation. Art and Artificial Life.” It is an introduction into this field as well as a very good reference to the status quo in the scientif community. One of the most interesting pages for newbies are the different tries to explain artificial life as a term and as a discipline. Genetic algorithms, agent-based systems, bottom-up robotics and cellular automata are techniques widely used in A-Life research. But A-Life is seldom science alone: A-Life Art is an established aspect of contemporary electronic art.
The second book, Stefan Helmreich’s “Silicon Second Nature” takes the sociocultural perspective to describe A-Life: How are new notions of life being materialized? Helmreich tries to follow the roots of A-Life definitions through cultural aspects, reminding us of Foucault’s Bio-Power: Bio-Power operates by defining people, by constituting their identities such that the y believe the fit into already extant natural categories. So is life a definition, and A-Life too.
The third book is a philosophical approach to A-Life: The Philosophy of Artificial Life. Margaret A. Boden and other contributors ask the philosophical basics of life and A-Life. Is there a definition of life? How can be A-Life research relevant for other scientific disciplines? This books offers not only a short introduction into A-Life, but also theoretical biology as well as philosophical groundings of A-Life.