Magical A-Life Avatars

Summary of Contents

Chapter 1- Hijacking a computer program to create artificial life

Chapter 1 introduces the enigmatic concept of A-Life avatars. They are described as a form of artificial life that can be created within an information environment. Explaining with the help of Lingo code, chapter 1 shows how a Macromedia Director player can be hijacked into service as a client controlled device that can be used as a cell to introduce and build complex software objects


Broad outline of the avatar concept. Looking at the World Wide Web from the client side. Seeing multimedia applications in a new light. A happening in a cell in RAM space. Comparing avatars to biological life forms.


Multimedia players - The biological cells of the Internet - Giving over control to the client - Client side control - Practical reality - Who is the designer of an avatar? - Where is the intelligence? - Choice of A-Life avatar cell engine - Creating an A-Life avatar cell - The cell portal - The cunning plan - Creating an object from the client side.

Chapter 2 - Add-ons, plug-ins, Xtras and supplementary engine code

Chapter 2 is designed to illustrate by practical example a working A-Life avatar. Explains how an A-Life avatar cell can be given extended powers and capabilities through a system of plug-in modules called Xtras. These allow avatars to create systems of objects from documents external to the cell. A worked example shows how text documents can be used to construct an avatar in RAM.


Creating an avatar from a distance using emails. Avatars using auxiliary programs for special purposes. The idea that an avatar isn't a computer program per se but an entity which can be brought into existence through documents or emails


Creating an avatar.

Chapter 3 - The ability of documents to take control

Chapter 3 demonstrates the power of avatars by using practical examples to show how they can be created or controlled by rogue documents. Practical examples show how an A-Life avatar cell can be extended to communicate with the Internet; how any page on the World Wide Web can become a part of an avatar. The reader is encouraged to experiment with the techniques described; exercising the imagination to modify avatars in all kinds of ways to extend a client's knowledge and awareness. Agent objects can be designed to provide liaison and help within the sphere of a clients own business interests. Illustrates versatility by imagining a mysterious Web power which controls rogue objects.


Avatars can exist outside of an application. Avatars can exist on the Web as a series of Web page documents. Avatars can combine and interact with each other. Rogue documents can introduce an outside influence which can take over an avatar. Web based avatars can install and communicate with RAM based agents.


Tagged text and parsing - Auto control, rogues and viruses - Control by Email - Where and what is the avatar? - An avatar on the Web - Rogue documents - Transferring documents from the Web to the local system - Creating frames and frame scripts on the fly - Importing media from the Web.

Chapter 4 - The creation of complex systems

Chapter 4 explains how avatars can be used to create complex systems. How they can be used to create sophisticated Intranets. How they can provide computerized organization to a company. How they can be used as agents and representatives on the Internet. Explains how A-Life avatar cells are environments that can be placed into the RAM space of computers to provide a common meeting ground for people and computers to communicate and exchange ideas or information. How they can serve the purpose of adaptable interfaces which can be easily and quickly reconfigured to facilitate almost any conceivable interchange whether it be human to human, machine to machine or human to machine. Explains how avatars can be designed to be virtual representatives, able to sit on a customer's desk-top to be available to help a customer solve problems. Demonstrates how a client's personality can be cloned onto a bot.


Creating systems out of objects. A-Life avatar cells as a system of organization to run a business. An avatar system as the basis of a sophisticated Intranet. Using avatars as agents and representatives. Bots.


Rogues and viruses - Intranets - Object oriented design strategies - Adaptability and metamorphosis - A business as an object oriented structure - Presenting a new Concept - Interaction with the Internet - Tricks and illusions with Intranets - Avatars as marketing tools - The illusion of bots - Bot party.

Chapter 5 - The practical aspects of programming an A-Life avatar

Chapter 5 gives a new slant to the use of Macromedia's Director multimedia authoring environment. It takes away Director's restrictive metaphors, exposing the raw power of this application to create structures that are outside of Director's intended scope.

Explains the multimedia authoring environment in terms of arrays or lists, where items are seen as pointers to areas of RAM memory which hold media, scripts or other lists. Using this more abstract representation, it is easier to relate to the content of the Web, allowing Web content to be seamlessly merged with the environment of an A-life avatar cell.

Gives a brief run through of the all the various Lingo expressions, commands and functions which can be used by objects in an A-Life avatar cell.


Seeing an authoring environment and an A-Life avatar cell as structures consisting of multidimensional lists. Merging the environment of an A-Life avatar cell with the environment of the Web. The range of commands and functions available to avatars within an A-Life avatar cell.


A recap - Examples of avatar application - The dimensions of a computer environment - Structure of the A-Life avatar cell - Separate casts - On screen presentation - sprites, frames and scores - The human/avatar communication interface - The exciting potential of lists of pointers - Objects and behaviors - Movies in a Window - A-Life avatar cells and the Internet.

Chapter 6 - An avatar interface to the Internet

Chapter 6 conceptualizes the Web from a client's view point. It creates a model of a cafe where real people can be brought in to help a client with information and to solve problems. The client side sees the Internet and the World Wide Web as a vast and complex entity which is far beyond any realistic hopes of full comprehension. By using the features incorporated in an A-Life avatar cell, it shows with a practical example how it is possible to create an interface which simulates a cafe full of knowledgeable contacts who can help directly with any kind of informational need a client might have. The initial idea that you could bring a whole group of knowledgeable people in from the Internet to sit around in a cafe on your computer screen waiting to answer your questions seems quite bizarre until you devise a strategy and isolate the necessary communication links. Then, with the aid of very simple, high level programming structures, the whole thing becomes possible and viable.


The concept of using an avatar as an interface to the Internet. Creating a model of a complex real world environment. Incorporating real life people into a desk top model.


Converting real world to virtual world - Bringing a new customer into the cafe - Filling up the cafe with customers - Virtual objects - Reconfiguring virtual objects - Are objects in RAM or "on screen" - Expansion of the cafe concept.

Chapter 7 - The opening of a new paradigm

Chapter 7 explores the possibilities of using biological design strategies. It demonstrates how media and programming scripts can be transferred in bulk from the Web to a RAM based avatar by using a virus like helper object. A similar virus type object is taken from the Web to modify cell objects to give them increased powers and capabilities.

By using objects in different combinations to perform different tasks, a new control dimension is added. This is similar to the versatility given to biological life forms which use different combinations of genes to such great effect. Lingo property list structures are used to simulate the methods of the human brain by calling up a combination of learned or instinctive responses to any environmental prompts.


Introduces the concept of an avatar which is opened up to the Web to allow objects and other avatars to enter a client's RAM space to cooperate in creating complex structures. Avatars containing little helper objects which facilitate avatar to avatar cooperation. Virus type programs which can enter a cell to manipulate and change an avatar's powers and abilities. Avatars responding to environmental stimuli.


A client controlled door to external avatars - Setting up a menu in an A-Life avatar cell - From cast document to avatar - Adding to an object's abilities and knowledge - The customer object shows what it has learned - The flexible virtual object - Discriminative message passing.

Chapter 8 - Getting an avatar to make decisions

Chapter 8 explains with practical examples how avatars can be given simple programming mechanisms which allow them to make autonomous decisions. Decisions are based upon sets of stored responses similar to the way in which biological creatures are conditioned to respond to inputs from their environments. Practical examples show how avatars can be conditioned to make choices under a range of conditions. Flexibility in response is explained as different methods of routing messages through a population of internal objects.


Introduces the concept of avatars having a behavior control system which acts very similar to biological instincts. Sets of instincts can be learned or passed on from one avatar to another, or, taken from a Web page. Flexibility of response through reconfigurable message paths.


Responses and reactions - Avatar response to environmental prompts - Warning of a dire danger - Message passing - Requiring a paradigm shift - conceptual implications.

Chapter 9 - Emotive Decision making

Chapter 9 shows with a practical example how an avatar can be equipped with a primitive brain which can learn and adapt. The concept of emotions are introduced which can be used as a form of fuzzy logic for sophisticated control systems and decision making agents. Based loosely upon the way biological systems have evolved emotions to influence behavior patterns, the control mechanism displays some of the characteristics of a human brain. This brain is seen as the center of many sources of external control and influence.


The concept of an avatar having a set of programs which emulate some of the basic mechanisms of a human brain. The idea that this brain activity and the behavior it evokes can provide a form of fussy logic where decisions are made as a result of a compromise between several opposing influences.


Intelligent objects - Joe's brain - Emotional Decision making - An abstract view of emotions - Considering other options - Conditioning Joe to deal with new situations - A generic Joe object - Influence's which change Joe's emotions.

Chapter 10 - Hilbert space and genetic algorithms

Chapter 10 uses a mathematician's abstract modeling environment (Hilbert space) as an exotic approach to visualizing and designing avatars. By creating groups of tests results based around the best results from previous tests, parameter values can be constantly adjusted in a random manner until they approach optimum values. This provides an autonomous system which will self adapt to its environment.

The way in which Lingo and the Director environment is structured allows Hilbert space to be simulated in the environment of an A-Life avatar cell. This environment can be extended to include the local system,CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web. Web addresses can be used as dimensions in this simulation of Hilbert space to create all kinds of complex systems.

Thinking processes and communication techniques can also be modeled in Hilbert space, which suggests that such systems can be designed into avatars, allowing them to think, communicate and transfer thoughts.


This chapter takes the concept of avatars and the concept of biological life forms and shows their equivalence in an abstract modeling environment known as Hilbert space. Applying genetic algorithms to this modeling environment, practical examples show how avatars can be designed to think and communicate in a similar way to biological life forms - including humans. The concept could provide valuable insights into the enigmatic nature of the human brain and the human mind.


The strange idea of a multi-dimensional space - Hilbert space - The use and power of Hilbert space - The genetic algorithm - Function replication - Complex structures in Hilbert space - Emotions and strategies in Hilbert space - The Web, avatars and Hilbert space - Extending Hilbert space to include CD-ROMs - Worth a thought - Modeling "thinking" in Hilbert space - Non linear results and rules in the environment - Evolution of a heuristic strategy - Different types of genetic algorithms.

Chapter 11 - The merging of the silicon and biological worlds

Chapter 11 is about merging the biological world with the silicon world. Seen in terms of an information environment there is very little difference between the life forms which are created with biological cells and the avatars created with A-Life avatar cells. Biological life forms and avatars are brought to life through information which is ultimately based upon binary transfers. Seen from from the point of view of an abstract modeling environment they would seem to be very similar.

Seeing avatars and human life forms as part of a single continuum which is evolving onto the information landscape of the Internet it becomes pertinent to ask where the energy for this evolution is going to come from. This leads right back to the evolutionary force, the drive for competition.

This works as a positive feedback loop which favors systems which are using energy to increase their competitive advantage. In terms of human endeavor, energy is synonymous with money, so, competition for energy is realized in the form of competition for financial profit. Profit will arise from using the Web to give advantage to users. This means using the system to bring together cooperating units in an ever increasing complexity of symbiotic arrangements and associations. An example of an avatar application which updates a CD-ROM.


Conceptualizes the merging of biological and silicon world to propose that the information environment can be considered to be a continuum of the biological environment with avatars developing as a natural evolution of mankind. Equating the biological world of evolution with the practical business strategies of using the Internet and World Wide Web for creating wealth and business opportunity.


Computers and biological systems - a common abstraction - The enigma of a virtual object - Resolving the conceptual difference between biological cells and A-Life avatar cells - Using avatars as links to the Internet - The energy driving the evolution of the Web - Worm-hole.


Extrapolating into the future.