Art. It seems so easy for nature to produce forms of great beauty. Yet in the past art has mostly just had to be content to imitate such forms. But now, with the discovery that simple programs can capture the essential mechanisms for all sorts of complex behavior in nature, one can imagine just sampling such programs to explore generalizations of the forms we see in nature. Traditional scientific intuition—and early computer art—might lead one to assume that simple programs would always produce pictures too simple and rigid to be of artistic interest. But looking through this book it becomes clear that even a program that may have extremely simple rules will often be able to generate pictures that have striking aesthetic qualities—sometimes reminiscent of nature, but often unlike anything ever seen before.
Technology. Despite all its success, there is still much that goes on in nature that seems more complex and sophisticated than anything technology has ever been able to produce. But what the discoveries in this book now show is that by using the types of rules embodied in simple programs one can capture many of the essential mechanisms of nature. And from this it becomes possible to imagine a whole new kind of technology that in effect achieves the same sophistication as nature. Experience with traditional engineering has led to the general assumption that to perform a sophisticated task requires constructing a system whose basic rules are somehow correspondingly complicated. But the discoveries in this book show that this is not the case, and that in fact extremely simple underlying rules—that might for example potentially be implemented directly at the level of atoms—are often all that is needed. My main focus in this book is on matters of basic science. But I have little doubt that within a matter of a few decades what I have done will have led to some dramatic changes in the foundations of technology—and in our basic ability to take what the universe provides and apply it for our own human purposes.