July 3, 2009

The art of science; an interview with Steve Grand our 2nd summer special for '09, takes us down the block to visit with the new kid ~ Steve Grand. We caught up with this world class thinker-tinkerer through an odd series of events, know only that he stands out among others in the cyberlands of beneficence and care, and managed to find him a willing and amiable subject for our little show.

Some quotes about Steve Grand gathered for a Machines Like Us interview in 2007; "Very occasionally somebody from outside academia comes along and shows us academics how to do something we've been working on for years. Steve Grand showed us how to build a universe of evolving creatures, without the prevailing academic biases." ~ Rodney Brooks, Director, Artificial Intelligent Laboratory, MIT.

"Steve Grand is the creator of what I think is the nearest approach to artificial life so far.... He illuminates more than just the properties of life; his originality extends to matter itself and the very nature of reality."~ Richard Dawkins, author, evolutionary biologist, Oxford University.

"When Steve Grand set out to create norns and the world they lived in, he made some inspired guesses that went against a lot of received wisdom. My favorite was his decision to model about two levels deeper than most AIniks would have recommended -- for reasons of economy. (Hey, if you’re modeling a grazing cow, you’re not going to model every blade of grass -- you’re going to just have this renewable resource of undifferentiated stuff, right? Wrong.) If you do it right, as Steve did, your “uneconomical” modeling efforts pay for themselves many times over in providing foundations for realistic side-effects and multiple functions. And there’s a deeper point: hyper-idealized, oversimplified models often yield results that are just plain wrong. So my maxim, thanks to Steve, is: Always model more than you think you need."~ Daniel Dennett, philosopher, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tuffs University.

"Steve and I have appeared together in TV documentaries over the years and have met at conferences. If someone asked me to describe him in a few adjectives, I would say: ideosyncratic, visionary, courageous."~ Hugo de Garis, Head, Artificial Intelligence Group, International School of Software, WUHAN University, China.

We are especially thankful to the Coconino Center for the Arts for their support in providing us with an artistic backdrop for this occasion.


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