A-Life Report
Report on the
Artificial Life Environment

by Julian Saunderson
edited by Jane Prophet

Creatures of Simple Means
The animals in TechnoSphere are, it has to be said, not sophisticates. When not dozing or playing they have but two things on their minds: sex and food. These two desires provide them with the full motivation for their moment by moment actions throughout their existences.

The TechnoSphere world stretches 16km in each direction and is made up half of grass-covered open plain and half of craggy fractal mountains. Being wheeled entities the creatures designed using Creature Designer V1 find negotiating the rocky outcrops impossible and reside solely on the prairies. Most of the grassland areas connect but some are wholly surrounded by hills and allow communities to develop in isolation.

Herbivores wander about eating the grass below them, which covers the plains in patches of differing density. Hungry herbivores do more solid eating and less traveling about. Better fed ones are more picky about the grass they eat and shun areas of thin growth. The grass is 'intelligent", and grows and reducues in height as herbivores graze it (then they have to move on to another patch to eat).

There is no night/day cycle so animals take short naps whenever they can. All creatures like to be amongst companions, animals sharing the same body type with whom they may be able to mate. If they find themselves alone they may wander some distance to try to find friends, but generally they will keep an eye out to ensure they have company within sight.

Company of an unwanted sort may be provided by the carnivores, most of whom prefer to eat herbivores but some tackle other meat-eaters and still others specialise in carrion. A creature being hunted may try to out-run its attacker, ot it might turn and fight or defend itself using a combination of both actions. In fights carnivores generally have the upper hand over herbivores but a hefty vegetarian is capable of inflicting serious, possibly fatal, damage to a would-be predator so the aggressors don't have it all their own way all the time.

There are no sex distinctions in TechnoSphere. Every adult is capable of gestating and giving birth to a litter of offspring. When mating, the creature which is to carry the young takes an active role in searching for a mate (a well-fed adult with the same body type who is not itself pregnant). At another time the mating roles for these individuals may be the reverse. The offspring receive genetic influences from both their parents.

It takes approximately a quarter of a creature's expected lifespan for it to grow into an adult, should it make it this far, as childhood is a particularly dangerous time. At the other end of their life old creatures eventually lose their ability to mate and then gradually much of the rest of their faculties deteriorate. Creatures dying of old age have at least avoided the other two causes of death: starvation and predation. All dead creatures rot slowly till they disappear or are eaten, and the grass where they rot grows longer.

Life on the plains of TechnoSphere is thus currently simple and direct. This leads to patterns of stereotypical behaviour. A common example is for large herds of herbivores to become trapped at one end of a valley and surrounded by a band of carnivores. The carnivores feed off the outer herbivores and any which try to venture out of the area. The herbivores nearer the valley walls feed and reproduce and generally get on with their lives. This would be a stable situation except for the fact that the population increases and the grass is eventually grazed faster than it can grow. Famine conditions occur and the population suffers a catastrophic collapse.

As the TechnoSphere project develops so the features in the virtual environment will become richer and the animals' behaviour will gain in subtlety. In due course linkages between features of the environment and the creatures' use of those features will become tighter and the two sides may co-evolve together. TechnoSphere was never designed to be a model of any reality however; instead it provides an automated narrative of digital life and death which we hope will intrigue and entertain.

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    TechnoSphere@cairn.demon.co.uk