Life, the universe and email marketing in just 4 simple rules

2 minute read

You may not be aware that life was invented in 1970.

Not life itself (of course) but artificial life, as formulated by British mathematician John Horton Conway. It’s known amongst AI (Artificial Intelligence) enthusiasts as B3/S23, but you might have heard of it as ‘The Game of Life’ – a highly elegant mathematical description of birth, growth, survival and death.


How does it work? In Conway’s game, life is observed on a two-dimensional grid. At any point in time each cell on the grid exists in one of two states, alive or dead, and over a series of iterations it’s lifecycle is governed by just four simple rules.

1. A non-living cell with 3 living neighbours becomes alive
2. A living cell with less than 2 living neighbours dies
3. A living cell with 2 or 3 living neighbours survives to the next generation
4. A living cell with more than 3 living neighbours dies

These four rules essentially represent the conditions of reproduction, death (by mal-nourishment), sustainable existence (survival) , and death again (this time by overcrowding).

Like life itself, the model requires a set of initial conditions in order to commence, but once set in motion it continues completely autonomously. Over subsequent iterations we see life emerge, populations grow, thrive and decline, even outward exploration and colonisation. Since it’s publication, Conway’s simple hypothesis has been used to model existence on every scale, from microbe to the entire cosmos.

Interesting, but so what?

Think about your marketing, especially your email marketing. Create a relatively minimal set of starting conditions and a favourable growth environment and your subscribers (your population) will emerge. Fulfilled subscribers will attract more of the same, and nourishing them with sufficient attention will see them grow and thrive. But remember rules 2 and 4. Fail to attend to their needs or overcrowd them and they will decline, move away or die.

OK, so it takes a little imagination but perhaps you won’t be surprised that Conway’s model is often used to understand how businesses evolve and customer relationships develop – all you need to know in just 4 simple rules.