The switched sequence of the concepts "Simulation" and "Synthesis" in the title of the conference emphasizes some changes within the Alife community. The Alife XII submissions consist of a significantly higher fraction of wet Alife papers than at any earlier Alife conference. The submissions are also congruent with a clearer view in the broader scientific community on how we might create life either from scratch or through top-down design.
Protocells offers a comprehensive resource on current attempts to create simple forms of life from scratch in the laboratory. These minimal versions of cells, known as protocells, are entities with lifelike properties created from nonliving materials, and the book provides in-depth investigations of processes at the interface between nonliving and living matter. Chapters by experts in the field put this state-of-the-art research in the context of theory, laboratory work, and computer simulations on the components and properties of protocells.
The term "artificial life" describes research into synthetic systems that possess some of the essential properties of life. This truly interdisciplinary field includes biologists, computer scientists, physicists, chemists, geneticists, and others. Artificial life may be viewed as an attempt to understand high-level behavior from low-level rules—for example, how the simple interactions between ants and their environment lead to complex trail-following behavior.