Conway’s Game of Life


Here we have a game of life. The idea is that in a grid of cells, each cell is an individual life form, and it can be either dead (colored black) or alive (colored white). We start by assigning cells initial states: random cells will be dead and others will be alive. Then the cells’ next states will assigned according to their neighbors: if a certain number of their neighbors are alive, they will be alive; if not, they die. Then we let the game run and see what happens.


This game is named Conway’s game of life. It is an example of Cellular Automaton, which came about in mid 20th century. One of the origins of cellular automaton is the patterns on animals. Upon observing a cow one might ask: how do they manage to get such unique and complicated patterns? The idea is that simplicity can build to complexity. In Conway’s game of life, the rules are relatively simple — if neighbors live, cell lives; if not, cell dies — but the pattern it exhibits can be very complex. It’s simply that the rules and the patterns are not on different scales.

The idea that simple rules can lead to complex patterns on a larger scale is called Emergence, which we will discuss later.




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