Faculty member Jeff Pruchnic will deliver a talk entitled “What is Virtual Life?: Evolution, Ecology, and Ethics Online and On Earth” as part of the 2010-2011 Humanities Center Brown Bag Colloquium Series. The talk is from 12:30 to 1:30 PM, Wednesday, April 4, in room 2339 of the Faculty Administration Building.
Two arguments are made in this talk, both of which are fairly straightforward but at the same time somewhat perverse insofar as they try to invert traditional approaches to the subjects under review. The first is that the creation and population of “virtual worlds” — online communities that take place inside computer-based simulated environments — is an example of one of three primary ways that the purposes that drive biological evolution, as first defined by Darwin, take place in contemporary times, a moment in which many evolutionary biologists have proposed that human biological evolution has ended, or at least no longer functions in the ways in which we have traditionally conceived of evolution. The second is that studying the ways that virtual worlds and the “virtual life” populating them have developed and been sustained online might also offer novel strategies for thinking through one of the more urgent concerns of contemporary biological life: environmental crises and the question of how to promote more sustainable lifestyles and uses of natural resources.
In taking up these questions, this talk also discusses more generally the difficulties of defining evolution and “life” and various attempts to link biological evolution and human ethics from the nineteenth century into the present.