A Distributed Knowledge Network

Electric Sheep
Electric Sheep is a distributed computing project which allows users to view fractal flames and vote for ones they like. To use it, you download a screensaver that will help generate the fractal flames and display them on the screen. Fractal flames are computer-generated animations which take a lot of processing power to produce, so each computer running the Electric Sheep screensaver does a little bit. A new fractal flame, or 'sheep,' is displayed on each participating computer about every ten minutes. While that sheep is on the screen, pressing the up arrow key will give it a vote. Only a few sheep are stored on the server at one time, so the sheep with more votes get to live longer. New sheep are variations on sheep still living on the server, so a sheep that got a lot of votes would have a lot of children that are similar to it. This means that Electric Sheep can explore the space of possible fractal flames to find pretty ones.

This project produces some very simple knowedge - collective knowledge of which fractal flames are interesting. Each saved sheep is a label that marks all similar sheep as potentially interesting forms. Electric Sheep takes the information of user's votes and embodies it as knowledge by using popular sheep as a basis for the next samples. I consider knowledge to be the structure of a system which is influenced by incoming information and then produces some action from it. In the case of Electric Sheep, its structure consists of the currently saved sheep along with the method by which it explores new fractal flames. The system uses this knowledge to make pretty pictures and to further develop its knowledge.

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