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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences

Department of Ecological Modelling - Prof. Dr. Michael Hauhs

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Hauhs, M; Lange, H: Virtualities and Realities of Artificial Life in Breckling, B. und Reuter, H.: AK Theorie in der Ökologie, 9, 137-151 (2003)
Modern information technology allows the investigation of the characteristic properties of living systems from a new perspective. Which of the ecosystem features are necessary conditions resulting from their constraints, which are accidental, constituting contingent facts of their respective histories? As long as we know of a single phylogenetic tree in nature, the difference is hard to tell, rendering the reconstruction and realisation of artificial ecologies a major challenge. It has been taken up by the high technology of the time since decades; since two decades, IT is leading in this respect. Are their life forms that can be created in contemporary computers, and which ones? Successes and failures of a number of virtualizations are forming de facto constraints for theoretical ecosystem research. Artificial Life (AL) research appears to be not just another attempt towards realistic models for ecological systems, but undermines the basic assumptions of most of conventional modeling in this area: in AL, behavior is in general irreducible to internal mechanisms; behavior results rather from interactive and intentional usage of the simulation. We try to elucidate and demonstrate the crucial role of interaction in these simulations, drawing from current developments in theoretical computer science as well as a number of examples. We propose a new classification of ecosystem models according to its degree of interactivity.
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