The number of possible cellular automata is potentially infinite. In this context, Wolfram wondered about the existence of cellular automata's general behaviour rules22.
S. Wolfram studied one dimensional automata,
with two states and a neighbourhood of 2. He only considered as "legal"
the automata that firstly eliminate any cell without neighbour, and secondly,
are symmetric. There are then only 32 "legal" automata that
Wolfram systematically studied.
This study showed that, according to the author, numerous cellular automata, and maybe all of them, fall into four basic classes.
Class I- evolution leads to an homogeneous state.
Class I automata (rule 36)
Class II- Evolution leads to simple or periodic structures.
Class II automata (rule 40)
Class III- Evolution leads to chaotic states.
Class III automata (rule 18)
Class IV- Evolution leads to complex global structures.
Class IV automata (rule 20)
According to Wolfram, cellular automata belonging
to class IV generate structures that are strongly reminiscent of the game
of life. Yet it is known that this cellular automaton has the computational
universality property. This means that : "Cellular Automata
may be viewed as computers, in which data represented by initial configurations
is processed by time evolution. Computational universality implies that
suitable initial configurations can specify arbitrary algorithmic procedures"23.
He then puts forward the hypothesis that class IV characterizes the automata
having universal computation capability. In order to let this capability
emerge, the cells must be able to communicate and to transmit information.
In classes I and II automata cells are to strongly interdependent to allow
a useful information processing. Class III automata are characterized
by a too weak cells interdependence. Most of automata belong to classes
I to III. They represent 30 over the 32 Wolfram's automata. cellular automata
belonging to class IV are then only to be found in a minority of cases.
The cellular automata that are at the limit between classes I and II on
the one hand, and class III on the other hand, are the only ones to be
capable to deal with information in a useful way, and therefore are the
only "interesting" ones24.
C. Langton was also interested in the existence
of general classification rules of cellular automata but in a more general way. The difficulty
lies into the number of possible automata. If we consider the only automata
with 8 states and a neighbourhood of 5, there are 8 power 85,
i.e. 832768 possible universes. Langton decided to classify
the cellular automata depending on a general parameter .
is, in fact, the probability, within all possible neighbourhood configurations,
that one given configuration should lead to an "active" cell,
i.e. : 1 - (number of quiescent transitions/ total number of transitions)
. Using this parameter to build transition rules, Langton managed to classify
cellular automata. For a low value, cells quickly disappear. If the value is raised over
about 0.2, cyclical or persisting structures appear. Over about 0.3, complex
and unpredictable behaviours appear. Finally, over about 0.5, the multiplication
of structures induces a chaotic behaviour. To a certain extent the
parameter indicates the temperature of the universe of the cellular automata25.
The four following figures show examples of one dimension automata with eight states and a neighbourhood of 526.
We then find again Wolfram's classification,
but in a more general framework. According to Langton, the automata belonging
to class IV, those whose
parameter is roughly to be found between 0.3 and 0.5, are those whose
ability to process information is the most important. "(...)
cellular automata capable of performing non trivial computation - including universal
computation - are most likely to be found in the vicinity of "phase
transitions" between order and chaos (...)"27.
J.C. Heudin28 uses a parameter () that, in two dimensions cellular automata, corresponds to the number of active neighbours necessary for a cell to remain unchanged. In the game of life, this parameter value is 2. He then redefines automata with four rules :
For=1, the probabilities of rules execution are R4>R3>R2>R1. For = 2, we've got a complete inversion with R1>R2>R3>R4. Beyond 2, the order remains identical, but the rules R2, R3 and R4 are very seldom executed. Heudin then shows a fundamental change in the universe of cellular automata for = 2. It is during this deep modification of the automata properties - this phase transition - that complexity appears : "To appear [complex] needs order and a pinch of chaos. This situation occurs only at the interface of both systems, at the border who leads to chaos."29.
With the generalization of cellular automata behaviours, diversity of universal structures or the existence of life, tends to show that the laws of our Universe are precisely at the border between order and chaos. This is what Langton means in the expression : "life at the edge of chaos"30.
22- Wolfram S., Universality and complexity in cellular automata, Physica D, 10:1-35, 1984. This text is available at : http://www.stephenwolfram.com/publications/articles/ca/84-universality/index.html
24- Gutowitz H.A., Langton C.G., Methods for designing Cellular Automata with "Interesting" Behavior, 1994. Available at : http://www.santafe.edu/~hag/interesting/interesting.html.
26- Generated with : http://alife.santafe.edu/cgi-bin/caweb/lambda.cgi
27- Michell M., Hraber P.T., Crutchfield J., Revisiting the edge of chaos : Evolving Cellular Automate to perform Computations, Santa Fe Institute, Working Paper 93-03-014, p. 8. This text is available at : http://www.santafe.edu/projects/evca/Papers/rev-edge.html
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