Artificial life research typically employs digital computers to implement models
of living systems. However, there is now a growing
if pre-theoretical feeling that computers, or perhaps the software
running on them, are themselves
some kind of living systems.
Such a possibility can impact artificial life research in at least two
ways: By highlighting that computers and communications networks can
, as well as tools, for artificial life modelling,
and by highlighting that insights, tools, and models from the life
sciences can have explanatory, predictive, and design consequences for
the construction of future computation and communications systems.
This paper seeks perspective on such `real artificial life', looking
backwards and forwards at the rise of living systems in manufactured
computer and communications systems.