Electric Sheep is a fascinating creation of artist Spot Draves which coordinates a large, distributed network of machines and people to create an evolving population of beautiful beings. Using the SETI@home architecture, the free, open source screensaver probes evolutionary genetics, design and aesthetics using algorithms for collective decision making and differential reproduction. Along with evolving animations, the project's cyborg mind generates a rich set of data with many interesting implications. High resolution derivatives are spawning new directions in computation and art.
Draves began the Electric Sheep project in 1999 and it has been growing ever since. The sheep are fractal animations, complete with a 'genetic code' that specifies their looks and movements. The sheep reproduce via a genetic algorithm based on 'survival of the prettiest' selection where the audience votes to propagate their favorites. In recent years, a new source of genetic diversity emerged as Draves introduced the possibility for users to exercise 'intelligent design' by creating their own beings and introducing them to compete in the main population.
Electric Sheep, released under a Creative Commons license, is the jumping off point for experimentation and creative off-shoots. Draves describes several interesting angles, including plans for bit torrent distribution of high resolution animations, tweaks to the algorithms to add diversity to design and visualization, and software for viewing the geneologies of creatures stored in the project database. The data represent an interesting collection of images, and what people thought of them, opening ideas for aesthetic investigation. Draves continues to explore the sheep through his Dreams in High Fidelity, a painting that evolves.
Scott Draves a.k.a. Spot is a software artist residing in San Francisco. He is the creator of the Fractal Flame algorithm, the Bomb visual-musical instrument, and the Electric Sheep distributed screen-saver. All of Draves' software artworks are released as open source and distributed for free on the internet. His award-winning work has appeared in Wired Magazine, the Prix Ars Electronica, the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, and on the dance-floor at the Sonar festival in Barcelona. In 1997 Spot received a PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University for a thesis on metaprogramming for media processing. He projects live video for underground parties and at clubs, and self-publishes SPOTWORKS, a DVD of abstract animation synchronized with electronic music. His current project is Dreams in High Fidelity, a painting that evolves.
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