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Simon Beardow - Deputy Director, British Council, Vietnam

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Baa, Baa, Electric Sheep

Coming as I do from a country that has more sheep than people, the thought of 'electric sheep' generating art is a source of endless fascination!

Scott Draves a.k.a. Spot is a Google Engineer and visual and software artist living in New York City and has a PhD in Computer Science. Draves is the creator of the Electric Sheep, a continually evolving abstract animation.

It is described as a form of artificial life where the software recreates "the biological phenomena of evolution and reproduction though mathematics. The system is made up of man and machine, a cyborg mind with 450,000 participant computers and people all over the Internet".

As a collaborative abstract artwork project Draves' wants to demonstrate that “computers can be that soft and beautiful and have that spark of life".

What makes it particularly novel is that much of the action happens while your computer is in sleep mode.  When these computers "sleep", the Electric Sheep comes on and the computers communicate with each other by the internet to share the work of creating morphing abstract animations known as "sheep".

Electric Sheep is run by thousands of people all over the world, and can be installed on any ordinary PC or Mac. To build further upon the engagement factor of the project, the human participants guide the survival of the fittest by voting for their favorite animations in the flock.

You can also design your own sheep and submit them to the gene pool.  If you would like to view the most popular sheep in the flock you can do so here.

This blend of the organic with the inorganic and mathematics with the visual art is great for those who are up to the coding challenge.  More importantly it blurs the lines between what have traditionally been silo-ed disciplines.

The results are simply "Baaaaaaaaaaaaaautiful".
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