OpenWorm: A Digital Organism In Your Browser is a new Kickstarter to fund the expansion of the open source digital life project I wrote about here and also here, a collaborative attempt to construct an artificial life form from the cellular level to the point where it's able to have basic problem-solving abilities. Let's watch:
Kickstarter page here and a blog post from the OpenWorm team here. And yes, as project coordinator Stephen Larson tells me, developers are free to import the OpenWorm code into Second Life (or wherever else), and use it to build their own forms of artificial life: "100% of the code is open source on GitHub under the OpenWorm organization. The coding skill required to adapt it into SL may be challenging, but in principle there is nothing stopping the SL community from doing this and we would support anyone who wants to take that up!"
If you pledge enough to the Kickstarter, you get a copy of the OpenWorm, called WormSim, to play with on your browser -- and if you like, hack the code and develop/improve it:
"WormSim is our way of putting a name to the experience and ease of use of exploring the OpenWorm simulation through the browser," Larson tells me. "For this Kickstarter we are doing the engineering work that will enable us to host that code as a service, ensuring that it will be up and easy to use for the Kickstarter backers. But as the OpenWorm simulation improves we will continually update WormSim with improvements from the community. WormSim is the convenient vehicle for the entire open science project, so inspiring community improvement is in fact its whole purpose."
But, I ask Larson, how does he know the OpenWorm project isn't contributing to the ultimate creation of a completely artificial sentient life form that will turn against humankind and enslave our children?
"Funny you should ask as our Kickstarter launched the day after the U.S. premiere of Transcendence," says Larson. "I thought the movie did a nice job of balancing the fear of sentient AI with its potential for good. One of the ideas repeated in that movie was 'We fear what we don't understand'. I think this applies to a lot of technological advances that are potentially scary (e.g. nuclear technology, genetically modified foods). Technology is neither fundamentally good or evil but it depends on how it is applied. We can't build technology in a vacuum from societal consideration of how to strike the right balance. At the same time, it is crucial that we educate ourselves on how appropriate use of technologies like these could bring enormous benefits to human society so we don't cut them off too soon simply out of blind fear."
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