Archive of Author | Thomas Ray

Thomas S Ray earned undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry at Florida State University. He received his Masters and Doctorate in Biology from Harvard University, specializing in plant ecology. He was a member of the Society of Fellows of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In 1981 he joined the faculty of the University of DelawareSchool of Life and Health Sciences. In 1993, he received a joint appointment in Computer and Information Science at U. of Delaware, and was appointed to the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. In August of 1993, he joined the new Evolutionary Systems Department at ATR (Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International) Human Information Processing Research Labs in Japan, as an invited researcher. In August 1998 he became a Professor of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma, with an adjunct appointment as Professor of Computer Science.

Over the years, Dr. Ray has been involved in a series of completely different research programs:

  His current research: The diverse set of psychoactive drugs collectively represents a rich set of tools for probing the chemical architecture of the human mind. These tools can be used to explore components of the psyche whose discreteness is normally obscured by their being embedded in the complete tapestry of the mind. By activating specific components of the mind, they are made to stand out against the background of the remainder of the psyche. Thus both their discreteness and their specific contribution to the psychic whole can be better appreciated. This work suggests that the human mind is populated by mental organs, which are defined as populations of neurons which bear specific neurotransmitter receptors on their surface (e.g.: serotonin-7, histamine-1). Some mental organs provide consciousness (in separate adult and childhood forms); others function as gatekeepers to consciousness (in long and short time scales); others give salience, meaning or significance to the contents of consciousness, while others provide content to consciousness. Some mental organs support the facilities of language, logic and reason, which appear to be fully developed only in adult humans. Other mental organs provide affective ways of knowing the world, through feeling alone, which provide the complete archaic mind in our developmental and evolutionary antecedents. Mental organs evolve by duplication and divergence, and are the mechanism by which evolution sculpts the mind. Dr. Ray is in the process of understanding how variation in the proportioning of these various elements in individual minds, contributes to the peculiarities of the personality, and in extreme variations or interactions, to a variety of mental disorders: schizophrenia, autism, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, mental retardation, learning disorders, bipolar disorder, addiction, disorders of rage, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental organs provide a direct linkage from genes, to proteins, to neural structures, to psychology, providing the missing link between biology and psychology. When seen from this perspective, the mind comes into focus. The mind has structure, function, process, genetics, development, and evolution. It provides new approaches to understanding the etiology and treatment of mental disorders. It provides understanding of psychoactive drugs, both psychiatric and recreational. It helps us to understand ourselves and others. Have a look at some of his publications on the human mind.

  In the summer of 2001, Dr. Ray began an exploration of the newly created genome databases, with a broad interest in whatever interesting discoveries might be made there. He used the genome databases to study the origin and evolution of gene families. He also explored the possiblity that the genomic data may provide new approaches for understanding the human mind. The new genome databases can provide a complete catalog of chemical communication systems in the brain. They have the potential of providing a comprehensive understanding of the processes of development and differentiation that generate the architecture of the brain. And by comparing human and ape genomes, they can point to the genetic and neural structures that make us uniquely human.

  From 1990 to 2001, Dr. Ray conducted research on digital evolution, which means exploring what happens when evolution by natural selection is embedded in the medium of digital computation. This work began with the creation of Tierra, a system in which self-replicating machine code programs evolved by natural selection. This work received considerable media attention. In 2000, he implemented a new system called Virtual Life, which is a derivative of Evolved Virtual Creatures originally created by Karl Sims. In June of 2003 he began a collaboration with Ivan Tanev to develop the VirtualLife project in new directions. This kind of work is known to many people as Artificial Life. He did some work on evolvability. Have a look at some of his publications on artificial life.

  From 1974 to 1989, Dr. Ray was a tropical biologist who studied the evolution and ecology of a variety of organisms inhabiting rain forests. His work focused primarily on the foraging behavior of vines in the family Araceae, however, he also studied ants, butterflies, and beetles. Most of his field work was conducted in Costa Rica. After 1982, he worked principally at Finca El Bejuco biological station located in the lowland rain forests of northern Costa Rica, which he built, and owns and operates. He was deeply involved in rain forest conservation in Costa Rica. Have a look at some of his publications on tropical biology.

Website: http://life.ou.edu/

Articles with Thomas Ray


Aesthetically Evolved Virtual Pets

“Aesthetic, emotional, and empathetic selection are applied to a derivative of Karl Sims’ Evolved Virtual Creatures. The resulting Creatures can be beautiful or strange, and provoke strong reactions in human observers. It may be possible to evolve virtual pets to which humans can form strong emotional bonds.” From 1990 to 2001, Thomas Ray conducted research on digital evolution, which means exploring what happens when evolution by natural selection is embedded in the medium of digital computation. This work began with the creation of ‘Tierra’, a system in which self-replicating machine code programs evolved by natural selection. In 2000, he implemented a new system called ‘Virtual Life’. In 2014, his ‘Aesthetically Evolved Virtual Pets’ video was runner-up in the Virtual Creatures competition at GECCO.