Reflection Essay – Closed systems: Generative art and Software Abstraction

Watz states “Inspiration taken from processes found in nature is common, with the tension between organic and mechanical forms every present.” I personally find this statement about generative art interesting. The way nature acts is dependent on many different factors of varying level of influence, with each factor holding a certain probability.

For example, in a controlled environment of a fish tank, the amount of ammonia, which is harmful to fish, in the water at a given time is largely dependent on waste produced by fish (more fish = more ammonia), and the ammonia to nitrate conversion (harmful ammonia becomes harmless nitrate) by bacteria. Bacteria growth depends on oxygen levels, which depend on respiration rate of water plants, which depends on light intensity. Even in a controlled environment, there are already so many factors, which will take a lot of time to calculate by hand.

Thus, an algorithm can be used to consider all these factors, and simulate the ammonia levels in the fish tank. Since there is a probability attached to each factor, the end result becomes unpredictable to an extent.

Watz also states that “Programming errors can lead to serendipitous discoveries, and one does well to embrace one’s mistakes.” I agree with this statement. When reverse engineering to produce a desired result (e.g., to create a computer simulation of something in nature), there are many trial and errors one will face. As one tries to head towards their goal, the errors are unpredictable and to goal-oriented individuals, they are seem as a step backwards and unwanted. However, it’s only through such processes where one can stumble on a discovery.

In conclusion, GA is largely inspired by the unpredictability of nature and to appreciate GA, one must be able to embrace instability and errors.

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