Electric Sheep

Yesterday’s class reminded me of an interesting collaborative online work by Scott Draves, called Electric Sheep, first created in 1999.  It answers the question, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick posed in the title of his 1968 book.  Electric Sheep are a form of artificial life modeled after biological evolution, in a way similar to other works we discussed in class.  The “sheep” do not look like animals necessarily, but are in fact any electronic animation played on screen when a computer “sleeps.”  Users can also submit their own sheep to the project. They will reproduce and mutate through an algorithm. However, their survival depends on the votes by the audience. Draves also uses open source software and encourages others to participate.  As it says on Draves’ website, “The system is made up of man and machine, a cyborg mind with 450,000 participant computers and people all over the Internet.”

This work also has the benefits of having all 4 features of Digital Art as a MEDIUM that we are aiming for in our term projects:

– Interactive          – Participatory        – Dynamic        – Customizable

Check ELECTRIC SHEEP: http://www.electricsheep.org/

Description from the project website: Electric Sheep is a collaborative abstract artwork founded by Scott Draves. It’s run by thousands of people all over the world, and can be installed on any ordinary PC or Mac. 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”.

Anyone watching one of these computers may vote for their favorite animations using the keyboard. The more popular sheep live longer and reproduce according to a genetic algorithm with mutation and cross-over. Hence the flock evolves to please its global audience. You can also design your own sheep and submit them to the gene pool.

The result is a collective “android dream”, blending man and machine to create an artificial lifeform.

2 responses to “Electric Sheep

  1. I was researching art and AI, and I came across this article on geek.com. Its an AI/ Painting piece by Benjamin Grosser. The objective of the piece is for a machine, using AI, to paint art on canvas based on sounds the AI hears. The type of sound influences the decision making process of the AI machine. Specific sounds do not tell it what to paint, but rather influences it how to decide what to paint. These decisions translate into hues, lines, opacities, colors. It is really quite an interesting piece on how digital (and AI) art is used as a tool to make more traditional art, like paintings. There is a pretty interesting video as well on the site.


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