REVIEW - Imitation of Life


Imitation of Life


Douglas Sirk, Lucy Fischer


Rutgers University Press (1991)




Francis Glassborow


October 2004



The sub-title of this book is 'How Biology is Inspiring Computing'. I think that only tells half the story because by the time you have finished reading this book you will realise that computing is also inspiring biology.

This book is a comprehensive overview of the ways that biology and computing are interacting. Every one of the ten chapters provides food for thought. Some such as chapter 4 on artificial life also provide enough data so that you can find interesting work on the Web. I found a good place to start was tierra/
. I won't spoil it for you by saying more than 'have a look at that site and follow the links'.

Chapter 8 is titled 'Computer Immune Systems' and covers some of the lessons from biology that can be applied to dealing with computer viruses and the like.

The author manages to focus on providing information rather than regurgitating the hype of enthusiasts for a specific area. For example she steers straight down the middle on the subject of DNA computing. She provides enough information to inform the reader as to what this is and what has so far been done but avoids the wild speculation of some popularisers.

The book is readable and short enough so that you will not need to spend you Christmas holidays reading it. If you want to think about where computing is going and some possibilities being currently explored in the laboratory this is a book worth taking the time to read.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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