Complex Systems

Cultivating the Garden of Eden Download PDF

Randall D. Beer
Cognitive Science Program
Informatics Department
Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering
Indiana University


Garden of Eden (GOE) states in cellular automata are grid configurations that have no precursors; that is, they can only occur as initial conditions. Finding individual configurations that minimize or maximize some criterion of interest (e.g., grid size, density, etc.) has been a popular sport in recreational mathematics, but systematic studies of the set of GOEs for a cellular automaton have been rare. This paper presents the current results of an ongoing computational study of GOE configurations in Conway’s Game of Life (GoL) cellular automaton. Specifically, we describe the current status of a map of the layout of GOEs and non-GOEs in 1-density/size space, characterize how the density-dependent structure of the number of precursors varies with increasing grid size as we approach the point where GOEs begin to occur, provide a catalog of all known GOE configurations up to a grid size of 11×11, and initiate a study of the structure of the network of constraints that characterize GOE versus non-GOE configurations.

Cite this publication as:
R. D. Beer, “Cultivating the Garden of Eden,” Complex Systems, 32(1), 2023 pp. 1–17.