Game of Life

1970 Game of Life

The book of science

Tom Sharp

John Horton Conway computer science Game of Life

Conway’s Game of Life

Variations of life

Inherently interesting

John von Newmann’s criteria for life is (1) that it can reproduce itself, and (2) that it can simulate a Turing machine.

To say that Conway’s Game of Life meets John von Newmann’s first criterion is incorrect, since a cell does not reproduce itself. Conway prototyped the game using a Go board with its black and white stones. Typically today, a computer represents a cell internally and projects it on its screen as a square. But we can say that Conway’s Game of Life simulates this criterion, and that it can meet von Newmann’s second criterion, since it has the ability to act as a universal Turning machine.

Another definition of life might require that each cell consume a portion of some finite renewable environmental resource to survive. Life might be required to have evolved as part of a natural ecosystem. Conway’s Game of Life is, instead, a kind of “artificial life.”

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