• The cover of the 'Perl Hacks' book
  • The cover of the 'Beginning Perl' book
  • An image of Curtis Poe, holding some electronic equipment in front of his face.

My AI Life Simulator

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I’ve been wanting to get back to playing around with AI life simulation. Years ago I was writing a small simulation in Perl. I was going to “evolve” tigers, cows, and grass in a simple food-chain simulation.

The tigers would learn to hunt cows, the cows would learn to eat grass and avoid tigers, and the grass, well, the grass would grow.

I wrote a lot of code. The brains were simple “winner take all” neural networks and the animals could eat, move forward, or turn.

What sort of amazing strategies would these animals evolve? After they evolved, what sort of new animals and constraints could I add to make the simulation more interesting?

I had written plenty of code, lots of tests, and was quite proud of my work. Except it didn’t work.

The cows wandered around aimlessly. The tigers wandered around aimlessly. The grass grew. My animals would not evolve.

I wrote more tests. Maybe they couldn’t see? No, they could see. Maybe eating wasn’t giving them enough energy? No, eating was giving them enough energy.

Maybe their brains didn’t work? No, their brains worked just fine. Mine, however, didn’t. I was stumped.

I kept poking and prodding and theorizing and moaning and finally had an epiphany. I had, once again, written unit tests for everything.

I hadn’t written integration tests. Amongst other things, I teach software testing and over and over again, I warn people how critical integration tests are. But here I was, making the same mistake.

So I wrote integration tests. And that’s when I discovered it.

My animals could think. My animals could see. But I never connected their eyes to their brain. They never thought about what they were seeing.

I had written a voter simulator.

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