Bio-Agency and the Possibility of Artificial Agents

In Alexander Christian, David Hommen, Nina Retzlaff & Gerhard Schurz (eds.), Philosophy of Science - Between the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities. Selected Papers from the 2016 conference of the German Society of Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht, Netherlands: pp. 65-93 (2018)
Authors
Anne Sophie Meincke (Spann)
University of Southampton
Abstract
Within the philosophy of biology, recently promising steps have been made towards a biologically grounded concept of agency. Agency is described as bio-agency: the intrinsically normative adaptive behaviour of human and non-human organisms, arising from their biological autonomy. My paper assesses the bio-agency approach by examining criticism recently directed by its proponents against the project of embodied robotics. Defenders of the bio-agency approach have claimed that embodied robots do not, and for fundamental reasons cannot, qualify as artificial agents because they do not fully realise biological autonomy. More particularly, it has been claimed that embodied robots fail to be agents because agency essentially requires metabolism. I shall argue that this criticism, while being valuable in bringing to the fore important differences between bio-agents and existing embodied robots, nevertheless is too strong. It relies on inferences from agency-as-we-know-it to agency-as-it-could-be which are justified neither empirically nor conceptually.
Keywords agency  philosophy of biology  artificial intelligence  embodied robotics  enactivism  biological autonomy  concept of life  bio-agency  metabolism  artificial life  normativity
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