This interview with the late Douglas Adams was filmed in November 1997 at his home in London, on Betacam SP in 4×3 – state of the art at the time! I was making a video for CyberLife about the artificial-life (AL) technology being used in their Creatures series of computer games. Douglas was impressed with the evolutionary, bottom-up approach that CyberLife had used to evolve life-like digital entities that could learn and pass on characteristics from generation to generation. Douglas was a true geek, fascinated by evolutionary biology and computer science, and one of the first people in the UK to own an Apple Mac. Douglas’s ability to ‘riff’ on subjects that interested him was exceptional and in this interview he talks about the potential for AL, as it seemed at the time. CyberLife’s unique approach to developing artificial-life seemed then to have huge potential outside of Creatures, for example in industrial applications that could fundamentally change the way we interact with computers and software. Thirteen years later and we’re still waiting for the AL revolution to happen. Perhaps the world was not (and still isn’t) ready to hand over control to digital life forms, or perhaps the difficulties in applying AL to the real world were insurmountable. I’m not sure, but either way the company CyberLife no longer exists. However, Creatures continue to survive and thrive with many devoted fans breeding digital communities. Steve Grand, the chief architect of CyberLife’s technology, is still working on AL and may yet unleash his creations on an unsuspecting world. The two things I remember most about interviewing Douglas Adams, as well as how engaging he was, were firstly that he was very tall (at least 6’ 5”), and the furniture in his house was correspondingly huge. So although he looks perfectly in proportion sitting on his vast sofa, I felt rather small in comparison. And secondly he insisted on sitting next to a life-sized sculpture of a naked human figure which looks innocent enough in the wide shot but I had to try and frame it out in the close-ups as the thing’s groin appeared next to Douglas’s head and was extremely distracting!
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