Here are a few thoughts on Conway’s Game of Life which came up in our group today.

  1. I view the Game of Life as simile rather than metaphor for our existence.
  2. The rules exhibit tendencies towards the creation of certain stable structures.
  3. Small changes can radically disrupt stable structures.
  4. Human experience is similar to the Game of Life in that we each respond autonomously to our environments.  The aggregate of our responses causes stable structures like families, governments, slavery, schools, careers etc.
  5. The best we can do as historians is to point out and characterize some of these stable structures.  Unless we are physicists examining the most elementary particles in the universe and the rules that govern their interactions, we are only building approximations of understanding.
  6. No physicist can explain a marriage by studying the collection of quarks that make up the marriage.
  7. We are left only with our approximations.
  8. There is no past, no future, only the churning present.