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An early social-computational model

This article discusses James Conway's Game of Life.
A screenshot from the “Game of Life” from the Netlogo library by Netlogo
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James Conway’s The Game of Life was an important step for computational social science. It showed that amazing patterns could grow out of simple rules of interaction between cells. In the following video, Conway’s game of life is explained.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Conway’s Game of Life

The game of life is an early social computational model. It simulates a very simple organism: a cell, that can be dead or alive depending on the number of neighbouring cells that are dead or alive. The fascinating thing you can observe is that these simple rules of interaction produce group patterns that move over the grid of cells. In scientific terms we call this “emergence”, as rules for interaction defined for individuals (micro) produce behavioural patterns on a group level (macro). Nowadays, social computation uses theory based rules for interaction. Nevertheless, Conway’s Game of Life is still a clear example of an essential capability of social computation: interactions between individuals can grow fascinating phenomena at the group level.

We invite you to experiment with Conway’s Game of life for yourself. Also, a very nice collection of life forms in the Game of Life can be found on

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