Scott Draves' Electric Sheep project combines distributed computing, open-source software and a thumbs-up or thumbs-down ranking system with some heady psychedelic magic to generate a flock of colorful screensavers, or "sheep," that can be used (and created) by anyone online.
The project draws its power from users' computers and generates designs that survive on the basis of their popularity--the audience votes for their favorites, and, according to the project's Web site, "the more popular sheep live longer and reproduce according to a genetic algorithm with mutation and crossover. Hence the flock evolves to please its global audience."
The Electric Sheep Web site also traces the genealogy of the "sheep": This page show three generations, including the two parents of a sheep, and the design's offspring.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.