grassgrowing,

class of methods in artificia that “render things less artificial”: basically, anything useful that “happens by itself” once you “leave it alone.” Theres always an aspect which is, or can be interpreted as, time; the word hints at the typical slowness of arriving at anything (“watching the grass grow”) but also the unsuppressable naturality of the changes. Typically, grassgrowing is a mutation/selection mill — from nearly instantaneous single-parameter “settling” runs to decades-long metaevolution experiments (evolving the evolvers etc., with smart heuristics to achieve previously unthinkable stack depths).  ■    A grassgrowing session rarely has a single goal; some amazingly simple setups have yielded more than their authors ever imagined and continue to play for years, spawning forks and remakes. Grassgrowing is art, if only for its surplus of complexity (“getting back more than you put in”); often classified with nature arts, it is more aptly a time art — an attempt to get, with our novel toys, a better sense of time (“of which we now have more than ever”). Blindly struggling and accidentally bettering is something we all can identify with: “grassgrowing is life,” can be emotionally captivating without any narrative overlay; on the flip side, grassgrowing makes it sometimes too easy to see puppeteer strings attached to our own statistics-making struggles. ■    The “grass addiction” has been an irritant for the “no free lunch” philosophy — the heritable-more-than-trainable mentality of “disbelief in the world” which has powered anyone from creationists to encycloreans. The first grassgrowing craze coincided with — and enabled — the rise of civic science that opened vast searchable landscapes for the institutionally footloose; ever since, open-ended modelling has been consuming most of Earths computing bandwidth. It was “the new gaming”: at the peak, everyone seemed to be tending some creatures, often with large intellectual and emotional investment; your infinitely tweakable grassgrowing patch may not (unlike a real garden) burden responsibility but only up to a point: many have attacked “ethically borderline” treatment of entities “complex enough to be alive.”

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