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Fourmi is French for “ant” (derived from the Latin formica). So "Fourmilab" is “ant Aphid-ranching ants at Fourmilab laboratory”. As it happens, I’ve been interested in artificial life since the mid-1970s, long before it became respectable. Ants and ant colonies always seemed to me to be the most interesting models, since they exhibited complex emergent behaviour with simple organisms and a limited number of chemical signals. When Rudy Rucker and I were discussing his “Artificial Life Lab” program, I often urged him to adopt an ant colony model for it. Being a science fiction writer, he had his revenge upon me. The villain of his 1994 novel The Hacker and the Ants was based on me, with the final scene set in the building which now contains the www.fourmilab.ch server. But he laughs best who writes last. Amusingly, not long after the publication of The Hacker and the Ants, the largest interconnected network of ant colonies known as of that date was discovered in the Jura mountains, not far from Fourmilab.


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