Visualization has an increasingly important role to play in scientific research. Moreover, visualization has a special role to play within artificial life as a result of the informal status of its key explananda: life and complexity. Both are poorly defined but apparently identifiable via raw inspection. Here we concentrate on how visualization techniques might allow us to move beyond this situation by facilitating increased understanding of the relationships between an ALife system's (low-level) composition and organization and its (high-level) behavior. We briefly review the use of visualization within artificial life, and point to some future developments represented by the articles collected within this special issue.
Recent years have seen the discovery of freely diffusing gaseous neurotransmitters, such as nitric oxide (NO), in biological nervous systems. A type of artificial neural network (ANN) inspired by such gaseous signaling, the GasNet, has previously been shown to be more evolvable than traditional ANNs when used as an artificial nervous system in an evolutionary robotics setting, where evolvability means consistent speed to very good solutions—here, appropriate sensorimotor behavior-generating systems. We present two new versions of the GasNet, which take further inspiration from the properties of neuronal gaseous signaling. The plexus model is inspired by the extraordinary NO-producing cortical plexus structure of neural fibers and the properties of the diffusing NO signal it generates. The receptor model is inspired by the mediating action of neurotransmitter receptors. Both models are shown to significantly further improve evolvability. We describe a series of analyses suggesting that the reasons for the increase in evolvability are related to the flexible loose coupling of distinct signaling mechanisms, one “chemical” and one “electrical.”