In the 1970’s a man named John Conway invented a kind of ‘game’ with a set of simple rules based on a grid of squares. A square would light up depending on whether it was neighboured by two other lit squares. Too many or too few neighbours and the light would go out. From these simple instructions he found many complex animations emerged and developed that looked a lot like microbial life forms. If something like life could emerge out of a few set of rules repeated over and over again – perhaps life like characteristics like intelligence and creativity might also? Perhaps they told us something about life, intelligence and creativity themselves?
Rodney Brooks a roboticist form MIT would develop similar ideas and apply them to robots. Rather than building a robot with a brain that contained an understanding of the world he built robots with a set of simple behaviours for interacting with their environment. These robots didn’t think about the world – they thought with the world – perhaps this was something 20 Century art had already worked out?
We build artBots so we can continue tangling with this complex web of ideas and possibilities. By getting in and building something we start to think ‘with’ the world rather than simply ‘about’ it. In the process the world starts to speak to us of aesthetic (creative), conceptual (ideas), and functional (scientific and practical) possibilities and potential.